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Everyone at Sida should do an immersion! (PLA 57)

The articles in Section 3 of PLA 57 are a collection of individual testimonies written by some of those who have taken part in immersions. This account was written by two Sida staff members following their stay with a family affected by the 2004 tsunami in southern Sri Lanka. The piece shows how initial scepticism was replaced by enthusiasm for an approach that offers more than the usual 'ceremonial' project visit by foreign donors. Sida is leading the field among donors in institutionalising the practice of immersions (see Nilsson et al., Section 4). At a time when many donors are moving further and further away from having any direct contact with people living in poverty - in part a consequence of the shift towards budget support - Sida is signalling its commitment to reducing that gap.

By their very nature these are highly personal and subjective accounts. The authors record what mattered to them at the time. The act of writing is part of the process of reflection, which is so central to every immersion. The tone of the pieces and the choice of language reflect the intensity of the experience. All of them illustrate the power of face-to-face dialogue and the potential of immersions to challenge deeply held beliefs.

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.

Guest editors: Izzy Birch, Raffaella Catani with Robert Chambers.

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