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Although the concept of ‘popular participation in development’ is far from new, realisation has grown during the recent past that ‘participation’ must be organised in such a way that it leads to popular involvement in decision-making, not simply in making voluntary contributions of time, effort or payment. Thus, today, participation is understood to mean a process by which people share in decisions relating to policies and actions undertaken by formal bodies on their behalf, and by which they accept responsibility for those decisions. A participatory approach is often one which leads to project beneficiaries becoming actors or managers within a service delivery scheme: in BWSS, as handpump caretakers, for example, or as latrine manufacturers and installers. Basic services schemes usually include the establishment of local Water Committees, with responsibilities for community involvement and contributions. A local community-based worker, voluntary or modestly paid, frequently acts as go-between between service providers and consumers as a strategy for fostering participation (see also Basic Services). From the perspective of senior project managers and government agencies, the benefits of participation are that stakeholders have a sense of ownership of the project, are motivated to take an active part in project activities, and their contributions may keep cost low and ensure services are wanted, used properly and maintained. The participation by women as well as men at all levels is regarded as essential. (See also Gender, Participatory Appraisal and Stakeholders.)

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