Q for Qualitative participation

Qualities of Participation


Measures the participatory process expressed through sets of aims that show to which extent the genuine interests of the community or investors were or were not fulfilled.

A good representation of how participation can be qualitative is shown by the poster painted by the French students (in the spring of 1968) to explain the student – worker rebellion (in English):

“I participate; you participate; he participates; we participate; you participate . . . They profit” (Arnstein, 1969: 216). The poster illustrates how participation should not take place; rather the benefits of it should be shared by the parts.

A case study, that perfectly depicts how participatory approaches and overall participation can be qualitative, is one of the programmes initiated by the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) organisation from Karachi, Pakistan. It is a slum upgrading project launched back in the decade of 80s. What makes this project remarkable, for the matter of qualitative participation, is the amazing level of cooperation between community and the facilitators of the project. Also, the direct involvement of the community in the project implementation (through organising themselves into smaller groups of territorial interest, which would take care of a certain area of the slum), which is worth mentioning, made the participation qualitative. 

OPP maps

Orangi is Karachi’s largest slum, long considered a no hope area. The children were playing in filth; the streets were filled with excreta and wastewater, making movement difficult and creating health hazards. Typhoid, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, and scabies were rampant in the area. Pearce (1996) reports that the residents of Orangi were aware of these problems, but they could not solve them because:

1. They believed that the provision of infrastructure was the responsibility of the government (the psychological barrier).

2. They did not have the technical expertise to construct a sewage system (the technological barrier).

3. They were not organized to undertake collective action (the sociological barrier).

4. They could not afford the costs of a conventional sewage system (the economic barrier).


The Orangi Pilot Project organized local people into street committees, each committee consisting of twenty to forty families living in the same lane, and lent them money to buy the raw materials to build their own sewage facility. Residents of individual lanes banded together to elect a project manager and contributed cash and voluntary labour to get their own sewer installed.

Source: Understanding Community Participation.

OPP was initiated in 1980 and by 1988 it was upgraded to four autonomous institutions like, Orangi Pilot Project–Research and Training Institute, Orangi Charitable Trust and else (Hasan, 2006). What makes the OPP case study interesting and important is that after its success, it was replicated to other parts of the country and even all over the world.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Image source: Research Training Institute (OPP).

What makes the participatory approach in Orangi qualitative is explained by the following :

1. The idea behind the project is that the community should provide service for themselves with the support of OPP and not otherwise;

2. Organising people from the same lane was the factor that developed reciprocal trust;

3. Ability of OPP to mobilise local resources at its capacity was of a major importance;

4. The OPP could determine people’s real needs;

5. The project carried economic and social benefits to the local people;

6. The collective activities opened opportunities for people in local communities to make improvements in their lives.

More information about the project here:  Orangi Pilot Project. Also watch “A role model for realizing your Social Responsibility”.

Download articles

Arnstein, S.R. (1969) ‘A ladder of citizen participation ‘, AIP Journal , July, pp. 216-224.

Hasan, A. (2006) ‘Orangi Pilot Project: the expansion of work beyond Orangi and the mapping of informal settlements and infrastructure’,Environment and Urbanization, October, pp. 451-480.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s