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Overview - Power tools for participatory learning and action (PLA 53)

Sonja Vermeulen

Journal article

Many people's lives involve the day-to-day management of natural resources. Such intimate interaction creates awareness of the technical, social and political obstacles to good management. Yet many cannot contribute to the definition of policies and institutions that govern their use of natural resources. The Power Tools initiative aimed to develop, test and circulate existing and new tools to bridge key gaps in policy processes and content. These policy tools – tips, tactics and approaches – provide practical help to people working to improve the policies and institutions that govern access to and use of natural resources.
Guest editor Sonja Vermeulen coordinated IIED’s Power Tools initiative – Sharpening Policy Tools for Marginalised Managers of Natural Resources – which involved 35 partners from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The tools aim to help less powerful people and their allies achieve positive change in natural resource policy – through understanding, organisation, engagement, resistance and persistence. The articles analyse and suggest ways forward on the adaptation and application of tools in participatory action and learning situations, where participants must deal with more powerful institutions and individuals. Each article accompanies a summary of the corresponding Power Tool. The overview examines the explicit connection between power and tools – and how tools can change power relations. The articles provide examples from India, Brazil, Ethiopia, Mali, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Participatory Learning and Action (PLA, formerly PLA Notes) is the world's leading series on participatory learning and action approaches and methods. PLA publishes articles on participation aimed at practitioners, researchers, academics and activists. All articles are peer-reviewed by an international editorial board. See: www.planotes.org

Article in: PLA 53. Guest-edited by: Sonja Vermeulen.

Keywords: policy, NRM, community-based natural resource management (CBNRM).

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