Power Relations in Community Participation: Does It Really Matter?

Joseph E Cobbinah


Power relations in community participation is also another concept that appears in many development discourses, but the extent to which it is hindering development practice seems to be overlooked. The purpose of this article is to examine the concept of power relations and how it has been influencing participatory practice in rural community development. It aims at looking at why people must be concerned about the use of power and finds ways of addressing the excessive use of power and power relations that seriously hinder active participatory practice. This article presents results of data gathered from community members in the western region of Ghana. Using a case study approach, the study adopted interpretivists and social constructivists philosophical perspectives. The data was gathered using focus group discussions and one-to-one informal interviews. It is argued that, while development organisations and the district assemblies are encouraging participation, they are finding it difficult to relinquish power to enhance effective participatory practice. Participation continues to reflect in most rural development programmes, but there are key barriers to effective participation and the conflict of power and power relations are still problems affecting participatory practice. Addressing issues of power relations will not only make local people very proactive, but also enhance their readiness to participate in community development activities. 

Keywords: Power relations, power, decision-making, community participation, empowerment, gender

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