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Title: Problem structuring methods for development : a conceptual clarification with an application to participative health services planning in Mexico
Author: Asfura, Murielle Bendeck
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2001
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Participatory development planning methods (PDPMs) have been developed within the 'people-centred' approach to development. Independently, problem structuring methods (PSMs) have been developed within operational research (OR). Both families of methods claim to assist empowerment and participation. Nevertheless, these concepts are used in ill-defined or even contradictory ways. The aim of this research is to explore to what extent claims made that PSMs can assist in development in the Third World are justified. The hypothesis developed and adopted during this research is that the analytic assistance provided by PSMs can be expected to contribute to a process of empowerment of the disadvantaged principally through improving participants' understanding of their problematic situation, and through providing structure to this understanding. PSMs generate this effect through improving the quality of dialogue between participants. Other more indirect expected effects are also identified. In combination, these effects should tend to impact positively on commitments to a course of action, and on longer term increases in self-power. In order to articulate this hypothesis it has been necessary to conduct some conceptual clarification to achieve a clear meaning for the terms "power", "self-power", "participation", "empowerment", and "spaces for dialogue". Using this as a base, a conceptual model of empowerment as a process has been developed, which identifies the factors, pre-requisites and processes involved in disadvantaged social actors' ability to maintain or augment their self-power. This model provides the bases for identifying the possible effects of PSMs, and for evaluating their effectiveness. To explore both our hypothesis and the adequacy of the conceptual model, a case study of the application of one PSM - the Strategic Choice Approach (SCA) - in a grassroots situation was carried out. This involved engagement in and observation of ongoing developmental activity of the Community Health Committee in a small town in Mexico. Reasonably clear and positive effects from the application of SCA were found in several model elements, consistent with the hypothesis. The effects in other elements were more ambiguous. Overall the results of the case study are encouraging; however, as they result from the application of a particular PSM, extrapolation to more general conclusions about the potential of PSMs to empower disadvantaged social actors should be made with caution. The case experience also was generally supportive of the conceptual model of empowerment, in that observed activities and processes could be interpreted unproblematically within the model's framework. The model offers a vehicle for further research aimed at confirming and enriching its structure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available