Reviews of development projects in the Agriculture and Forestry sectors in the Pacific Islands clearly indicate that there are still limitations in resourceful engagement of project partners in development projects, despite use of participatory approaches. In addition, there is continuing demand by external donor organizations that development projects have multiple agencies involved in the belief that this will increase the effectiveness of development projects in the Pacific. The justification for this study was the observation that although participation of multiple agencies was promoted in development projects, the capability to monitor participation of these partner agencies needed to be improved. This study perceived a development project as an institution of inter-related segments which consists of: donor agency, project implementing agency (funding/grant receiving agency), project partner agencies, and project beneficiaries. Based on this, in this study participation was categorized as Inward-participation and Outward-participation.
This study focused on Inward-participation, which related to participation of partnering agencies in development projects that included project implementing agency and its partner agencies. This study specifically looked at Inward-participation in Pacific Island Agriculture and Forestry sector development projects. It was found that due to their design limitations, currently used tools and approaches in development projects in the Pacific were not able to clearly illustrate changing levels of Inward-participation in development projects. In order to develop a mechanism for monitoring Inward-participation, the concept of network was explored. In this study a ‘network’ were refers to a group of connected nodes, where a set of nodes and their links form the structure of a network. ‘Network’ may be seen as a simple concept but the question faced by this study was how to use networks for reflecting and communicating the status of Inward-participation in development projects? Although the body of literature in international development and networks has grown considerably in the last decade, there remains a scarcity of information on how to effectively use networks in monitoring of Inward-participation. This research used two development projects and explored features, methods and software application of Social Network Analysis and Visualization (SNA&V), the network component; in the context of Inward-participation assessment of agencies involved in development projects. An integrated methodological framework was employed, comprising of Action Research Methodology, Participatory Research Methods, Social Network Analysis and Visualization and Appreciative Inquiry, to guide the inquiry process of the study and the development of an Inward-participation monitoring mechanism using network analysis and visualization.
This study consisted of three Action Research Cycles. The first Action Research Cycle (ARC-1) involved conducting a scoping study with the development project practitioners in the Pacific Region. Observation and reflection of the ARC-1 showed that, due to design limitations, the major development project management tools and approaches could not monitor Inward-participation at a satisfactorily level, from the perspective of the development project practitioners. It also indicated that any mechanism for monitoring Inward-participation should be developed in a practical and participatory manner within the development project operations structure in the Pacific.
Two pre-existing development projects located in Fiji were selected for the second (ARC-2) and third (ARC-3) Action Research Cycles. These projects provided the data, research participants and a framework to apply and explore social network analysis and visualization and develop a mechanism for monitoring Inward-participation in development projects. In ARC-2, basic features of SNA&V were explored using different project involvement contexts to reflect Inward-participation. In ARC-3, the assessment progressed to in-depth study of network analytical and network visualization features within the context of identifying patterns of Inward-participation in the selected development projects. It was found that a combination of (a) Inward-participation monitoring criteria that rated different levels of Inward-participation and (b) network analysis and visualization techniques can be used to make precise assessment of changing levels of Inward-participation in development projects. This combination when applied in a project through a participatory and reflective approach formed the framework of the Network-Based Inward-Participation Monitoring Mechanism (NBIPMM), the Inward-participation monitoring mechanism developed in this study. Assessment of applicability of NBIPMM in development projects with research participants (project agency representatives) in ARC-2 and ARC-3 showed that 99% (n=38) supported the use of NBIPMM for Inward-participation monitoring in development projects and agreed that this can improve Inward-participation management in development projects. While 20% were uncertain, 80% (n=38) of the research participants believed that the NBIPMM could be used within their current development project organizational and operational structure.