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Reaction paper on Cooke, B 2001, Participation the new


									Reaction paper on Cooke, B 2001, Participation: the new tyranny, Zed books, London. Participation is the word people use to show their involvement in any particular occasion. However, recently participation has been used to express the involvement in more important issue such as decision making process, and access to resources. Its definition varies from one to another institution that wants to use the term. According to World Bank (2006) 'participation is the process through which stakeholders influence and share control over priority setting, policy-making, resource allocations and access to public goods and services'. In addition, Asian Development Bank (ADB), another financial institution, determines participation as one among four pillars of good governance. ADB attempts to give the definition of participation as 'the involvement of all stakeholders in the design of activities that will affect them' (Malvicini and Sweetser 2003). Even though the definition of participation can be given differently, the main focus is the stakeholders' involvement. While the development agencies want to implement participation, Cooke's chapter shows the social psychological limits of participatory development. The author argues that participation could cause four problems which can destroy the whole process itself. I will argue that even though there are limitations and constraints on the participatory process, it would be better to have participation rather than not; because the process provides us information on local needs and concerns. This reaction paper will firstly show a summary of Cooke's chapter on the main four problems, and then present the agreement with Cooke's argument before illustrating the arguments on getting local information, democratic way of decision, and level of participation. The paper will end by suggesting we must have participatory process. According to Cooke's chapter, participation can be both a means and an end. It is a means because it provides more effective development and better information. It is an end as it delivers empowerment and transfers consciousness which can lead to oppression. Besides, the author focuses on four different problems of participatory development, which are risky shift, the Abilene paradox, groupthink, and coercive persuasion. The first problem of participation is 'Risky shift' as risk-taking, risky individual and diffusion of responsibility occur. The Abilene paradox is another problem when agreement takes

place in term of following the majority's decision but it is not. Groupthink is the third problem when it leads to dysfunctional group consensus or group tyranny. Coercive persuasion, another problem occurred, leads to unfreezing (creation of motivation and readiness to change), changing (see, judge, feel and react to things based on a new view) and refreezing (integrating the new point of view). I think Cooke is correct as his argument is quite clear that participation is not an easy process to take place. Somehow, participatory process leads to four problems and then it would end up with not the results we initially want. Naturally, each person in a group usually has different thought on one broad issue. Even on a small simple problem, individuals may think in their own way from different perspectives. For instance, a family makes decision to go to the market. The father may choose Friday's night so he would have the whole holiday to do something else, while the mother may choose Saturday because she can go shopping the whole day. On the other hand, the children may choose Sunday as there is a good show on TV on Saturday. If each family member participates in the decision process, the final choice will take time. When we see these limitations, should we discourage participation? On the contrary, I believe that participation helps us understand more about local concerns because of the collection of information through the whole process. Cooke shows Abilene paradox occurring from the group decision; it does not mean that the problems found do not exist in their neighborhood, even though those issues may not be the real and immediate needs that all people in group want. For example, people reflex differently on identifying needs in their precinct on health. Some villagers argue on the increase in numbers of doctors or nurses, while others have idea on the equipment and facilities. The final decision ends up at one of the two opinions above. Whatever the identification is, both ideas raised by local people still are the needs they want. Similarly, risky shift would not take place if there is a plausible reason from each individual. For instance, in the above situation the father may give good reasons that going shopping on Friday's night helps him to have time for the family and also for the children such as gardening, playing with children and helping his wife cooking. Then,

everybody would not face any risks. In addition, by abandoning her intention, the wife gets some advantages from her husband such as spending time together with the whole family and having care from him. Likewise, group consensus is the rare case we have seen so far, particularly in a social context which is always contestable. In a democratic context, the majority is the best choice because it is hard to get everyone agreeing on one view. In a big group, we can follow the majority's decision, but in a small group, we would first hesitate to take someone's opinion because each individual presents one's reasons. However, at the end the most reasonable idea would be accepted and recognized. Returning to the decision on what day to go shopping, Friday night might be the best decision as the husband has good objective reasons of family care such as helping his wife cooking and having time with his children on the whole weekend; also everyone will enjoy the TV show on Saturday. Therefore, even though groupthink leads to the difficulty of group consensus, the decision will finally be made. Besides, there are four levels of participation that the author does not mention. Cooke concentrates on only the decision-making one. Malvicini and Sweetser (2003) show the four modes of participation which are sharing information, consultation, partnership, and control. With the basic of participation which is sharing information, the four concerns raised by Cooke would not exist. To inform someone is just to let that person know what happens. As an example, giving information on road construction to people living along the roadside does not bring any risk taking, Abilene paradox, groupthink, and coercive persuasion. Then, not all levels of participation would face the four problematic raised by the author. Therefore, I partly agree that the four approaches occur, but not always in all cases. Overall, the whole chapter discusses the problems occurred by participation such as risky shift, Abilene paradox, groupthink, and coercive persuasion. I accept that the four problems that Cooke raised happen inevitably through participatory process, however not in each case that those problems take place. Furthermore, I still believe that through participatory process at least we get some part of information from local voice that we

may not know before. Therefore, having participation in the whole process is just like the English saying claiming that 'Better late than never'.

References Cooke, B (ed.) 2001, Participation: the new tyranny, Zed books, London. Malvicini, CF and Sweetser, AT 2003, Modes of participation, Asian Development Bank, viewed 02 August, 2006, < >. The World Bank Group 2006, Participation at project, program & policy level, The World Bank, viewed 02 August, 2006 < NT/EXTPCENG/0,,contentMDK:20507658~hlPK:1279660~menuPK:1278231~pagePK: 148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:410306,00.html >.

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