Community participation in international development education quality improvement efforts: current paradoxes and opportunities

  • Nancy Kendall
  • Zikani Kaunda
  • Sophia Friedson-Rideneur


International development organizations increasingly use “participatory development” approaches to improve the effectiveness of their programs. Participatory frameworks are commonly limited in scope and funder-driven; these top-down approaches to participation have proven to be both ineffective, and at times, contradictory in their impacts. This article describes Malawi’s Participatory Action for School Improvement (PASI) project, which was an effort to transform participatory development approaches in international development education by engaging communities as full partners in the school improvement process. By acknowledging our own ideological intentions and attempting to work with community leaders to shift power dynamics within communities and between communities and funding bodies, PASI fueled significant positive changes in school functioning at a very small cost. The article concludes that PASI might represent a generative community-level cash transfer approach to participatory development.


Community participation International development School quality School improvement Malawi Participatory action planning Participatory budgeting 



We gratefully acknowledge the TAG Philanthropic Foundation, which made this work possible through their funding of the PASI project. We also thank Rachel Silver and Miriam Thangaraj for their thoughtful feedback on drafts of the article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Kendall
    • 1
  • Zikani Kaunda
    • 2
  • Sophia Friedson-Rideneur
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Educational Policy StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and DevelopmentUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Educational Policy StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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