Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Public Affairs/International Relations

First Advisor

Robert Weiner

Second Advisor

Darren Kew

Third Advisor

Michael Keating


It should be a straightforward and relatively simple way to approach rural program design in developing regions-ask the community what they want and use those answers to work collaboratively to help develop locally run programs. Unfortunately, few in western Kenya are asking such questions, and few are acting on the answers in rural communities.

In May and June of 2010, this writer spent several weeks in the villages of Ileho, in rural Western Kenya, asking the community to talk about community needs and development project aspirations. The method of Design for Participatory Development Planning, the topic on which this paper is written, was first introduced here. A core component, the collaboratively designed and administered 37-question survey, reflects the answers of 363 people of various ages, both genders, and varied education levels. The process was illuminating for a researcher: many people felt compelled to answer only what they thought a Westerner wanted to hear, and talked only about the kinds of programs Westerners have historically provided-water, schools, orphanages. Some people took hours to write thoughtful answers, thinking about the best interests of their community at large and candidly assessing the community's strengths and weaknesses. Most reported that they were more than willing to partner with anyone who would help them--anyone who might provide skills training, technical assistance, capital, or other resources to help the community raise their standard of living. When the survey process was complete and the data analyzed, the community was given a report of the findings for use when looking for and applying for grants.

Given the current state of development in Sub-Saharan Africa, the lack of administrative support to rural residents, the pervasive and oppressive poverty and the prevalence of top-down Western initiatives that are necessary but often alienating, a well thought out grassroots development approach that is locally run and managed with technical assistance from abroad may be the most viable option for developing sustainable projects and expanding the economic base of a rural community.


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