This research was conducted to determine whether our participatory process of curriculum development for vocational technical schools in Honduras was successful. This study analyzed program documents and correspondence to answer two questions: a) How did individual stakeholders perceive and negotiate the participatory process? and b) What factors --individual and environmental-- promoted and impeded the participatory process of development in this project?
Participatory development concepts applied to Human Ecology Theory guided this research. Qualitative methodologies were utilized to develop the curriculum—Phenomenology-- and to evaluate the process of development—Grounded Theory and Matrix Analysis. An analysis of individual counterpart contacts revealed that stakeholder organizations moved through 3 phases from project inception to completion. First, the team established an egalitarian and participatory philosophy of development. Second, they moved through a sequence of learning and teaching exercises prior to forming partnerships and developing projects. Third, the team focused on counterpart “fit” and relationship development as essential factors in successful partnering and participatory development.
The process was a success in the following respects: 1) Our team valued, respected and facilitated the needs and desires of local agencies working in the field; 2) Our participatory process was informed, iterative and voluntary, and 3) Overall participation by our primary stakeholders were consistent and significant. Our process could have been improved by involving primary beneficiaries earlier in the project cycle.
Although this analysis was qualitative and is therefore limited in its generalizeability, several lessons learned may be transferred to others interested in planning for a participatory development process. Individual development workers, the group dynamic and philosophy, and the process of development are equally important in successfully facilitating a participatory project. Supporting factors were a decentralized decision-making structure, key host-country based employees and recognition that socialization and play cement relationships that are an essential base for participatory processes. Impeding factors were a lack of time and funds dedicated to support relationship development and counterpart input.