Participation has become an imperative in international development. In particular, participatory approaches to development research are believed to support empowerment through collective development of knowledge and action. Yet there are broad interpretations of participation, ranging from passive participation and information exchange to empowered participation through self-mobilisation. As such, development researchers may claim to use a participatory approach without yielding power and agency to citizens involved in the research. This is a reflexive article about a development researcher’s experience in applying a participatory worldview through co-operative inquiry, a research approach that attempts to engage emancipatory forms of participation.The article begins with a critical analysis of literature regarding participation, the participatory paradigm and participation in the co-operative inquiry. The author then analyses her personal experiences, challenges and strategies as initiating researcher to actualise empowering forms of participation in three co-operative inquiries. The article emphasises that researchers must ‘‘let go’’ of their power, control and personal agenda to support empowering participation.
- Co-operative inquiry
- Development research