NGOs and development: the primacy of the personal
The experience with participatory rural appraisal (PRA) suggests that a reversal of the normally dominant behaviour and attitudes of outsiders is crucial for participatory development. Personal behaviour and attitudes have, though, been neglected in seeing how to do better. The development enterprise is oriented "North-South" by patterns of dominance between "uppers" and "lowers", and by funding, pressures to disburse, and top-down accountability. These patterns increasingly affect NGOs, which may then become more like government organisations, in scale, staffing, hierarchical culture, procedures, and self-deception. Policies, procedures and organisational cultures are determined by individuals, especially those in positions of power. To stem and reverse trends of dominance and deception requires personal change and action by them: to shift emphasis from upward to downward accountability; to resist pressures to disburse; to stress and reward truth, trust and honesty; and above all, to enjoy giving up the normal exercise of power, and enabling lowers to do more and take more responsibility. Participatory field experiences and training can help these personal changes. These in turn require a new professionalism of training, and for some NGOs a redefinition of roles. The question then is to what extent such changes would resolve problems of programming, performance, legitimacy, and accountability.