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Participatory methods and the measurement of well-being. In PLA 50

Sarah White, Jethro Pettit

Journal article

Wealth ranking and related methods marked a breakthrough in participatory appraisal. Levels and characteristics of wealth and poverty could be defined in ways that actually meant something to the people being `measured'. Development workers and poverty researchers were liberated from time-consuming household surveys, and could quickly cluster and rank households to better understand the realities of different groups. They could focus efforts where the need was greatest and prevent better-off families from `capturing' resources. This has led to a growing recognition of the importance not only of the material bases of people's lives and livelihoods, but also their personal and social relationships, values and ways of understanding the world. However, moving from the familiar concept of `development' to the more people-centred notion of `well-being' is not as simple as it seems. This article reflects on two questions: the definition of well-being and its measurement. How can participatory methods contribute to the meaning and measurement of well-being? What challenges does the new focus on well-being bring to the PLA tradition?

This special anniversary issue of Participatory Learning and Action contains articles by previous guest-editors and authors from the last 20 years who were invited to revisit their contributions and provide an update on current thinking. The overview reflects on the overlapping themes and parallels in the lessons learnt and suggestions for ways forward.

Guest editors: Robert Chambers, Nicole Kenton and Holly Ashley

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

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