by Carmen Lucía Jaramillo
Creating spaces where -regardless of their levels of education- people feel they can truly participate in planning and evaluation processes, in an informed and active way, has been a principal methodological concern during my work with communities, particularly in rural areas.
Beyond discourses on empowerment, horizontal relationships and recognition of the value of the knowledge and experience of local actors, it is always challenging to combine the demands of methodological rigour (structures, formats and technical language) and the need for fluent communication with protagonists in the transformation of the challenging realities they face in their territories. Generally speaking, structural socio-economic problems and indifference on the part of those in power are standard features in such environments. That is why it is always a challenge to “[…] create a space for debate, that is, a truly respectful space. Not the simple tolerance derived from indifference and scepticism, but a positive appreciation of differences” (Zuleta, 1985).
For this reason, in this continual pursuit of in-depth analysis and debate based on the use of simple language, I often opt for methods rooted in analogies that are familiar to the contexts and daily lives of the people with whom I carry out participatory planning or evaluation. One of the analogies that I have been able to adapt to multiple situations is that of a journey in a chiva, a form of transport used in rural Colombia to carry both passengers and goods. The image of the chiva is also very useful, because each one is a unique representation of what its owners want to say about their region. This is why they are covered in colourful images as a hallmark of pride and identity.