Social participation implies mobilizing the entire society or community for its own development. It becomes possible if individuals, local groups and social institutions actively participate.
In essence, active participation also means that people should be aware of their problems. They should be in a position to identify their needs and also try to find their solutions. Society or its individuals should be involved in planning for their needs as well as during implementation of those plans.
In simple terms, social participation is an act based on mutual trust built upon the attitudes and beliefs of people. Here in, each person, based on individual capability, participates in the development process of his or her society.
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As a result, people understand their environment better and remain motivated to tackle common issues. Thus, they not just remain mute recipients of development and welfare schemes of their administration but emerge as active participants in their development.
Some steps that the government can take to improve social participation are:
- Respect the community’s local contribution in terms of their knowledge, skills and capabilities.
- Promote co-decision-making in identifying needs, setting objectives an-d making policies.
- Not indulge in selective participatory approach.
- Awareness about the likely successes and pitfalls of various schemes to the people.
- Optimum utilization of the potential of the community/society without exploiting them.
- Empower the community/society to share developmental benefits equitably.
- Motivate participants to believe in the common values of respect, dignity, collective unity and solidarity.
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Specific approaches exist that encourage participation in development programmes like the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA).
In essence. what PRA and other similar approaches do is enable local people to make their own plans, analysis and appraisal with respect to their development.
The approach uses group animation and exercises allow sharing of information, analysis and action amongst the people involved and beneficiaries.
Social participation facilitates the process of development. While any development programme is being planned, the process of participation provides critical information to help formulate its objectives.
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It also helps in assessing how available resources can be used effectively. As people are actively involved, any changes in the development scheme are accepted easily.
Another outcome of participation is that both, administration and the community, realize the importance of cooperation while carrying out developmental activities.