Participatory Management

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Course on Participatory Management

by Iulia Bulibasa

Students study the principles of participatory management with critical examination of significant issues. How traditional and orthodox (top down) management can adapt to change in society is discussed.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course the students will be able to:
1. Apply participatory management principles to any management structure: NGOs, departments, corporations, government.
2. Identify the role of managers in a participatory management process.
3. Explain the roles of staff and volunteers and limits to their decision making and responsibilities.
4. Describe the various mechanisms for increasing staff and volunteer participation in management.
5. Identify the influences community values in the development of participatory management.

Required Texts

Recommended Texts

Bartle, Phil
2005 The Sociology of Communities. Victoria, Canada: Camosun Imaging
Note: Additional web-based readings will be assigned.

Method of Instruction

The course is on line. Students will read the assigned material and answer the question for each topic

Basis of Student Assessment


In evaluating the papers the emphasis will be on understanding and analysis, rather than recitation of facts.
Avoid memorizing sentences, in particular when it is not clear to you what the sentences mean.
As for analysis, your learning strategy should be to understand the relationships among facts, not the facts alone.
Another important aspect of your paper is illustration. After discussion and analysis, give examples from current or historical developments in society. This will show that you understand the concepts and theories and are able to apply them to society as tools for analysis. More specifically, each paper must:
1. show a full understanding of the thesis and the main arguments of the topic;
2. cover all the major components of the topic;
3. be organized and cohesive;
4. be written in clear English and communicate ideas effectively;
5. focus on the topic and avoid unrelated material from other topics or elsewhere;
6. avoid “fillers”, padding, repetitions, and vague generalities which can be used for any exam topic; and
7. illustrate the theory by giving appropriate examples, thus “applying” the theory to society.

Course Content

Course on Participatory Management

In order to run a programme of mobilizing communities you need to know what is the definition of management, what are the resources a manager uses, what skills you need and principles of management decision making.

"Management is far too important to be left only to the managers."

Participatory Management means that staff, not only designated managers, have input and influence over the decisions that affect the organization. The designated manager still has the final responsibility for making decisions and answering for them but the members of the staff affected by these decisions get to make suggestions and recommendations in the executive decision making process.

This way of managing results in a better run organization because the staff are more loyal when they feel needed and wanted and their opinions count.

Participatory Management has many benefits but also a few costs. The decisions are slower than when made unilaterally. Sometimes staff members will argue for a particular decision and they will be disappointed when they do not come to a common point of understanding. Disagreeing can affect the work and that's why the manager has to put some extra effort into reaching a common point of understanding, with staff participation.

Set the following up as weekly topics, Divide them into smaller chunks --Phil Bartle 22:20, 8 May 2009 (UTC)


Ways to Channel Participation

1. Set up a routine and regular participatory management meeting. Keep in mind that management meeting should have the purpose of making decisions and you should communicate that to all staff. Also you have to make sure that a management meeting lasts long enough to make decisions.
How long a management meeting should be? Given the fact that there should not be more than three decisions to make, should take about fifteen minutes.
How you can limit it to that length? Eliminate formalities, limit the time allowed for each decision to five minutes, remove all chairs for participants in management meetings, keep the meeting report simple ( date , time, what decisions have been made), organize a workshop for the issues that need to be digested or information that needs to be given in detail, do not use the decision making time for that.


2. Set up special sessions that allow (and encourage) staff input. People that feel good about themselves produce good results. you will get better results in mobilizing and organizing people if you put some effort in finding and using ways to encourage the people to feel better about themselves.If people get discouraged, they are likely to reduce their efforts. Give people Feedback, positive feedback encourages them to continue their efforts. Management is a process of solving problems. A positive, problem solving approach is more productive and effective than a negative, problem raising attitude. When people make mistakes do not criticize them, they know they made a mistake and they need to have the support of their leader in order to try harder. Let the person making the mistake be part of the decision making process aimed at correcting the results of the mistake without laying a guilt trip on them. Praise, Acknowledge and Guide. Start with honest praise, pointing out the good things, make suggestion for improvement and why, then finish with more honest praise. If a negative remark is placed in between these positive remarks, it will be easier for a person to accept the negative remark.

“You do not have to be bad to get better”. This means that anyone can improve, if shown how, if they are encouraged and helped to improve and not criticized. See more on Encouragement


3. Use job descriptions as your programme is increasing staff participation. Job description means a set of specific tasks that a staff member has to know in order to perform his job well. This list of tasks has to be reviewed line by line by the staff member along with a supervisor upon hiring and after these tasks have been discussed the job description should be signed by both supervisor and staff member. It could be seen as a non-monetary written contract between the staff member and the supervisor, legitimized by and in the organization. When both are familiar with the tasks, supervision can be more positive and the relationship between the two is one of cooperation rather than dictatorship. Job descriptions should be reviewed annually. Modification and updating that reflects the changing realities and conditions and signing of each updated version make up an important element of participatory management.


4. Arrange annual review sessions to obtain staff input for making annual work plans. Annual reviews as a mechanism of Participatory Management focus on staff participation and ways to obtain their input into the management process. It lies between monitoring and assessing the implementation of the past year and planning the implementation of the upcoming year. The participation of the staff members in the annual reviews means obtaining their observations and analysis of what happened in the past and their recommendations for what should happen in the future. To make sure that all the participants will participate to the review without being distracted by different factors, the review should take place outside the workplace, preferably outside the urban centre, away from phones, faxes and email. They need to know that the review is intended to monitor activities and their results and analyze them in order to use them to generate the next year’s work plan. The participants should feel comfortable and safe. It helps to make the environment a more safe place if the manager becomes a regular participant just like the other staff members and it is recommended to hire a professional facilitator to run the review process. Hiring a facilitator also helps the manager to spend more time listening to what the staff members are saying.


In order to keep the facilitator on track you need to sit down with him/her and plan the agenda.See Preparing a Workshop. The key elements that must be included in the agenda:

  • no formal opening;
  • at least one Icebreaker to relax the participants and set the ambience out of the daily work environment;
  • various sessions that use props and gimmicks to obtain input through unorthodox methods;
  • sessions to obtain observation and analysis of what went on during the previous year;
  • suggestions to obtain recommendations and suggestions of what to include in the work plan for the following year;
  • a simple closing session that reminds participants what went on, no formal speech by a VIP.

Have someone ( it can be a staff member ) that takes accurate notes and write a session report. The report should emphasize only the decisions.

Shortly after the annual review the Annual Work Plan should be produced. Because transparency is vital to participatory management, the plan should be printed and circulated among all participants within a few days of being made. A Work Plan is an argument (an argument being a logical order of linked statements , each one derived from its previous one ), written as a guiding document for the activities to be carried out during a given period of time. It is a management instrument that identifies (as goals) the problems that need to be solved, makes them finite, precise and verifiable as objectives, indicates the resources needed, the constraints to overcome, outlines a strategy and identifies the actions to be taken in order to reach the objectives and complete the outputs. A work plan serves the needs of implementers, beneficiaries, managers, planners, committees and boards and the donors, not only of projects but programmes and organizations that work independently of project documents.


Work Plan

The structure and content of a Work Plan:

  • Abstract or Executive Summary : one or two paragraphs. See Writing Reports
  • Introduction and Background: the introduction should introduce the plan, the material relevant to the period covered by the plan. The background should contain only information that refers specifically to those outputs and objectives you wish to achieve during the period covered by the work plan.
  • Goals and Objectives: a goal is the solving of an identified problem, objevtives are generated from each goal. The objectives should be SMART
  • Resources and Constraints: depending on how long the plan may be , they can be one chapter or two and have to include a short description of how you plan to overcome them
  • Strategy and Actions: the strategy section should indicate how you plan to convert your resources, overcome the constraints, reach the objectives. Actions should be clearly derived from the strategy, which identifies how the inputs are to be converted into outputs, each actions clearly related to one of the outputs. It should be clear how the specific actions will contribute to reaching a specific objective.
  • Appendices, Including Budget and Schedule: Budget should relate to one or more objectives. Schedule is optional.

The Work Plan is a tool, composed of a logical argument forming the text and an accompanying set of appendices that provide details to support the logical argument.

Another way to increase participation is Management Training

The essential management and planning decisions can be found in the answers of these four questions:

  1. What do we want?
  2. What do we have?
  3. How can we use what we have to get what we want?
  4. What will happen when we get it?

It looks very much like the questions included in project planning documents and brainstorming.

  1. What do we want ? or What is the main problem to be solved ? You should have goals and objectives chosen and understood, and agreed upon by all participants.
  1. What do we have? What are the resources that we have that can be used in order to reach the chosen goal or objective. A careful analysis of the situation and complete observation of prevailing conditions lead to identification of the things that can contribute to achieving the objectives and the things that can hinder the achieving of those objectives.
  1. How can we use what we have to get what we want? How do we get from A to B? Generating a strategy as a part of an action plan. Determine if the group, organization or community is organized or not in order to choose the structure and process that need to be considered. See Organize
  2. What Will Happen When We Get It? Covers the prediction of the impact of the activity. You have to identify the possible consequences in order to avoid unwanted consequences. Another important concept at this stage is monitoring, the observation of actions and results as means of reporting back to the group as a whole.

These four questions constitute the essential or core decisions in management. Once the four questions are recognized as at the centre of management training, other management principles can be identified.

Principles in Management Training

  • You need a vision. A vision for where you want to go, what goal you want to reach.
  • Once a goal and a direction are chosen, it is necessary to make some planning decisions as to how to reach that goal. “If we fail to plan, then we plan to fail.”
  • Planning means the series of thought processes that will lead to the creation of the future desired result. “We plan backwards in time ( start with the end and end with the start.)”
  • When selecting strategies, make the most efficient and effective use of what you have to get what you want. “ Do not work hard; get results.”
  • Participatory and inclusive decision-making can tap hidden resources. Involving everyone can lead to finding creative and previously overlooked strategies.
  • Recognize contributions, praise honestly,emphasize the positive, ignore the negative, do not criticize.
  • We cannot stand still . “If we are not going forward, then we slip backward.”

The materials used here were intended as management training as an element of community organizing and mobilizing, aimed at poverty reduction, the strengthening of low income communities. We will first talk about Organizing, the meaning of organized, and methods of organizing, then talk about mobilizing, what mobilizing means, choosing the community that needs mobilization and how to manage the mobilization of that community.


A. The Organizing Concept. Community Organizing by Training.

To organize means to instill a set of ideas and expectations.

Methods for Organizing:

  • Intervention (sometimes called social animation) or stimulation; both imply the encouragement and initiation of action by the community.
  • Organizing should be participatory; the participants should be an active part of the process of organizing.
  • Ask questions, this way you invite the participants respond, to participate and to get involved.
  • Do not impose solutions; make the participants come up with solutions.

The two main purposes for Organizing :

a)Organizing for decision making; The task is to create a CBO (community based organization) or if that CBO already exists, to improve its effectiveness. This starts with a public meeting of all members of the community where the main result will be obtaining a community decision about what problem needs to be solved. See Brainstorm. But you shouldn’t stop at finding the priority problem, go on to looking solutions to that problem, generate more specific objectives out of the priority goal, identify resources and constraints, create several possible strategies and choose one. Another important decision to be made is choosing the members in the Executive Committee. The selection process should be transparent, all people should be able to understand it and it should be acceptable to all participants. The executive committee is a bridge between the community (organized for making decisions) and the community project ( organized for action).

b)Organizing for action leading to achieving something. When you are working with the community in planning and executing a community project , you will be working more frequently with the executive committee. The training sessions will be set up as management training for the executive committee. The executive committee should understand that their job is to make decisions that reflect the desires the whole community, to contribute to transparency and to call whole community meetings when new major decisions must be made. It is important to form a project committee who must be organized for effectiveness in getting the project completed according to the desires of the community. Organizing a project committee is organizing for action. They organize a community brainstorm session and based on the results of this session they will generate objectives, review potential and actual resources, identify constraints, generate strategies, choose the best strategy, the budget and other details. The project committee reports to the executive committee, which reports to the community.

However, once this system is set up and the project is underway it must be monitored to ensure that the job is getting done in the most effective manner.

B. The “Mobilize” Concept. Mobilization Management.

In this context, the word mobilize means to engage in some action. Mobilization principles:

  • choose development over charity;
  • exercise increases strength;
  • enhance strengths and do not dwell on weaknesses;
  • understand the social perspective;
  • encourage and stimulate rather than control;
  • practice and encourage transparency, tolerance, courage, respect and altruism;
  • promote participation at all levels of development and training.

Mobilization has a couple of criteria for selecting the communities to be mobilized: - need (poorest first) and probability of success. Factors affecting success:

  • members of the community being aware that there is a particular problem that they are facing
  • is there any record of previous mobilization, self mobilizing success? If so the community has a an internal asset whilst previous failure can hinder the mobilization process.
  • the attitude of the local authorities. Without the approval of the authorities, the mobilization is in danger of being hijacked. See Politicians.
  • facilities. Consider the transportation and communication to and from the community, telephone, internet service.
  • the social organization of the community; is it conductive to self help? Some social research is needed and also to be able to see the data through a social perspective. It is necessary to be a sociologist. See Culture and Social Animation and Community Research for information on culture and community research. The data collected needs to be organized and filed in a Management Information System that allows it to be retrieved quickly and easily as needed. See Management Information
  • identify potential leaders who can carry the mobilization process;
  • the size of the community;
  • find out if there are any conflicts in the community.

Finding the conditions in the community will lead to being better at predicting if the mobilization process will be successful. If the community is more likely to be mobilized and more likely to become self reliant then it should be a better candidate for the mobilization programme.

The job description of a mobilizer needs to have an introduction that offers information about the geographical and administrative area, the agency, a summary of overall aims and the indication of the role the mobilizer will play in reaching those aims. It should also contain:

  • general responsibilities;
  • specific tasks;
  • required qualifications;
  • qualifications not required but desirable;
  • information on how to apply;
  • supervisor / worker contact.

See Defining a job by its Requirements.

Reference: Dr. Phil Bartle, PhD; http://cec.vcn.bc.ca/cmp

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