Participation Tools for the Pacific - Part 5: Implementation

Wan SmolBag Theatre from Vanuatu produces drama television shows to address issues of social importance: here people watch a drama focusing on reproductive health issue. Photo credit: Emma Walters.

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Community Radio, Participatory Action Research, and Television Drama are some of the implementation tools for communications and behaviour change.


What you need to know

Engagement of key stakeholder groups in operations financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) promotes good governance, transparency, innovation, responsiveness, and development effectiveness.  Effective engagement of stakeholder groups, including civil society, project beneficiaries, and project-affected people, requires the understanding and effective use of participatory tools throughout the project cycle. However, while one participatory tool may work well in one context, it may not be appropriate in another. This series of explainers provides a range of tools from which practitioners can pick and choose, according to different phases of the ADB project cycle, context, and available time/resources.  Some tools may be specific to particular phases in the ADB project cycle, such as monitoring and evaluation tools, while others may be used throughout the project cycle, such as participatory assessment tools.

This piece focuses on Tools for Implementation.


Tools for Implementation

Tools for participation in project implementation often focus on the soft skills associated with an ADB-financed project, such as training beneficiaries on road safety (for a road project), raising awareness on HIV/AIDS or encouraging healthy behaviors such as handwashing (for a water/urban project). Many, but not all, of these implementation activities have a communications and behavior change element, which is explored in the participatory tools in this section.

Community Radio

Community radio is a tool for the rapid dissemination of important messages about social, cultural, and economic issues affecting the community. It can be a two-way format, through talkback, or one-way information dissemination, such as community service announcements about agriculture (pests, extension visits), education policies and health outreach.

Radio is a powerful and inexpensive mass medium for reaching communities in isolated areas. Remote villages have access to rural radio. Note that men are often the owners of radio receivers. Battery operated, hand-cranked or solar radios are also available, which is useful in areas with frequent electricity disruptions. The culture of the Pacific is an oral culture and particularly suited to this medium.

Community radio can be used during project design, implementation, and monitoring. Radio can be used to engage with communities about a planned project and to keep communities up to date with project plans and implementation. Talkback radio is particularly effective in engaging communities in monitoring projects.

Local CSOs with experience in radio production working with the project implementer and beneficiaries. Community radio stations may be owned by local CSOs, particularly church groups.

Radio programs are most effective when produced in a participatory manner, with beneficiaries and stakeholders involved in production, in local languages, and with culturally appropriate content. Other important considerations include*:

  • Access. It should ensure access for all parts of the community. Community radio gives an opportunity to provide a voice for the marginalized.
  • Diversity.  Community radio can embrace the diversity of a community, in both the content and the way it was created.
  • Independence. It is owned and operated by an individual, not for profit groups. The community radio sector has codes of conduct that promote independence.

*P.K.  Ngugi and C. Kinyua. 2014. The Concept and Philosophy of Community Radio Stations in the Kenyan Context. Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism

Community radio programs raise awareness

Children fetching water from a community tap in Ebeye. Phot credit: ADB.   

The ADB-financed Ebeye Water Supply and Sanitation Project aims to reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases by improving access to safe water and sanitation on Ebeye, an island within Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Ebeye has a population of more than 18,000 and a population density higher than Hong Kong. 

The project will improve access to safe water and sanitation. However, the project recognizes the need to promote behavior change to improve hygiene standards to fully realize the project’s benefits. Therefore, the project includes an activity to establish a community radio station to help disseminate information about, and increase awareness of, safe water use.  

Community radio is also an important tool for awareness raising in Fiji; femLINKpacific is a Fijian NGO promoting the important role of women in decision-making. It focuses on local governance systems and development processes using community media. The NGO manages FemTALK 89FM, which addresses the under-representation of women and young women in decision making at local and national levels through community radio. The Suva station runs 24 hours a day, hosted shows run from 7 am and 7 pm most days. FemTALK 89FM broadcasts weekly from both the Suva Community Media Center and from the Labasa Community Media Center in Vanua Levu, as well from a mobile ‘suitcase’ radio that travels to women in the rural areas. 


femLINKpacific: Media Initiatives for Women 

Water everywhere – and soon it will be safe to drink on Ebeye

UNICEF. Communications for Development (C4D). Theater for Development, mass media, community radio and edutainment.

P.K.  Ngugi and C. Kinyua. 2014. The Concept and Philosophy of Community Radio Stations in the Kenyan Context. Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism

World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters. What is Community Radio?

Community Theater or Theater for Development

Community theater is used to highlight issues that are challenging or taboo, which can be addressed in a socially-acceptable way through drama or comedy. Theater for Development (T4D or TFD) promotes civic dialog and debate around sensitive issues. It is participatory in nature, allowing communities to tell their own stories using their own language and idioms of expression. It more often directly involves the beneficiaries of the communication effort as storytellers, playwrights, and actors.

Communities in the Pacific have a strong story-telling culture which is particularly suited to community theater. Some development-focused community theaters have become very popular and are in large demand to perform at schools and community venues.

Theater for Development takes away the ‘expert syndrome’ of an expert entering a community and telling the community what their problems are, how to address them and how to behave. Community theater can be used to address issues which are difficult to explore in other forms of communication including HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, sexuality, and reproductive health, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs.

Community theater is most often used during implementation of a project for the development of soft skills. A WASH community theater initiative may accompany a larger urban services project; an HIV/AIDS awareness-raising theater production may be part of a larger rural road project.

Theater for Development requires a longer-term commitment from a qualified NGO based in-country. It is important that the production uses local stories and storytellers, is developed is in local languages and is culturally-relevant and appropriate. More often, local beneficiaries are engaged in the production as actors.

Local NGOs with experience in community theater should be engaged in the preparatory stages of a project to determine appropriate themes and opportunities for participatory engagement via community theater.

Some theater groups have existing long-term troupes of actors (such as the Rainbow Disability Theater Group, which is a troupe of 23 disabled actors in Vanuatu) while others recruit actors on a project by project basis.  Wan SmolBag Theatre in Vanuatu has a core group which performs its plays to over 4000 people every year on a range of community health, governance, lifestyle, and environmental issues. Plays can be tailored or created to suit a community or development message or campaign and over 200 plays have been created and performed.

Community theater group tackles tough topics 

Stages of Changes is a women’s community theater group based in the Solomon Islands. It focuses on addressing the taboo topic of ending domestic violence against women and children through theater. Most of the women in the troupe were not trained actors when they started and being in the theater group has empowered the women in their own lives. The plays that they perform are largely visual and do not have a lot of dialogs. The actors feel that community theater is effective since the audience can think about the play and start to understand the women’s perspectives. Others feel that this is the right approach to address a very sensitive issue. 

Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association created Stages of Change and the project was supported by the European Union, the British Council and British High Commission Office in Honiara. The Stages of Change NGO has been supported by the British Council and has toured the Solomon Islands.  

M. Baines. 2015. Solomon Islands Women Empowered by Theater. Radio New Zealand International.

Participate. Theater for Development (TFD).

UNICEF. Communications for Development (C4D). Theater for Development, mass media, community radio and edutainment.

Wan SmolBag Theatre.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

ICT is defined as "an expanding assembly of technologies that can be used to collect, store and share information between people using multiple devices and multiple media.”* The use of mobile phones and the internet not only aid information dissemination to stakeholders, but can be used as tools to encourage local participation.

Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) is a paradigm that recognizes the role that ICT can play in communications for development, particularly helping marginalized and poor communities.  ICTs can be used to facilitate horizontal communication to build community participation, communication, and inclusion. ICT can be used to engage citizens in monitoring projects or issues, to gather information on community preferences, to disseminate real-time information to communities in times of crisis, to quickly disseminate public health (m-health or e-health) messages or gather data, and to engage communities with each other.

* U. S. Harris, E. Papoutsaki, & S. Kailahi. 2016. ICTs in Climate Change Communication in the Pacific Islands. Information technologies and international development, 12(4), 47-58.

Technology particularly mobile phones and the internet, has become relatively affordable (in some parts of the Pacific) for sharing real-time information and engaging with communities and stakeholders, particularly in remote locations. Technology can be a lower-cost alternative to face-to-face communication, and reduce the costs and risks associated with travel and distance. The potential to expand reach and scale out is significant with appropriate use of ICT. It is important to consider that internet connectivity in some remote, rural, highlands areas or outer islands may not be strong or existent.

ICT can be used during all phases of the project cycle: during design, preparation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

Project implementers can facilitate communication exchanges and engagement through ICT. Project beneficiaries are involved either as the passive recipients of information, or as active participants in two-way information generation and exchange. Usually, technical resource people will be required to identify and administer the technology.

Development communications is a fully formed discipline and requires specialist expertise. A few pointers for using ICT in development communications are:

  • Identify the needs and goals of the audience. Although the purpose is for members to interact, it is important to determine the shared goal of the community.
  • Communication approaches using mobile phones and the internet should be community-centered to ensure participation.  Establish netiquette or a Code of Conduct.
  • Know your audience and use language or approaches to suit; often a multi-platform approach will be required.
  • The technology should suit the requirements of the community: if the community has limited internet, other forms of communication should be used.

Timor-Leste NGO operates an early warning, early response system via tablet  

Screenshot of Belun’s New Incident and Conflict Potential Data Portal.

The NGO Belun is among the largest national non-government organizations in Timor-Leste and holds the most extensive community outreach program across the country. It operates an early warning, early response (EWER) system via tablet and the internet. The system uses a volunteer monitoring network to gather data and information about violent incidents and situational change in three municipalities of Timor-Leste. At its peak, it had 86 monitors in 43 subdistricts in Timor-Leste, who gathered data about violence and situation change across the country. Data is collected by the monitors and submitted to Belun’s head office via tablet.  

Data is then analysed by staff and uploaded into an online portal, the new Incident and Conflict Potential Data Portal. The portal displays maps with incidents highlighted, with each incident notes as verified or unverified. Each publication from Belun includes recommendations for policy reform and relevant intervention. The data is available for use by government, civil society, local, academic and international stakeholders to conduct their own analysis and prepare responses.

Belun. Early Warning, Early Response (EWER) System.

GMSA. The Mobile Economy: Pacific Islands 2015. GMSA.

U. S. Harris. No date. ICTs in Climate Change Communication in the Pacific Islands. Sydney: Macquarie University.

R. Heeks. 2008. ICT4D 2.0: The Next Phase of Applying ICT for International Development. Computer 41(6). pp 26-33.

ICTs for Development.

UNICEF. Innovation in Communication: Information and Communication Technologies for Development.

Participatory Action Research

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a qualitative research process which integrates participatory modes of inquiry that disclose the experiences of individuals and communities, for the purpose of taking action and influencing change. It makes use of a “cyclical process of fact finding, action, reflection, leading to further inquiry and action for change.”*

*M. Minker. 2000. Using participatory action research to build healthy communities. Public Health Reports 115 (2/3). pp 191-197.

Its philosophy is based on “the concept that people have a right to determine their own development and recognizes the need for local people to participate meaningfully in the process of analyzing their own solutions, over which they have power and control, to lead to sustainable development”.* Participants are not subjects of research, but rather, are active contributors to research who participate in all phases of the research process.**

*H. Attwood. 1997. An overview of issues around the use of participatory approaches by post-graduate students. In IDS, Participatory Research, IDS PRATopic Pack Brighton: IDS, University of Sussex.

**D. Chandler and B. Torbert. 2003. Transforming inquiry and action interweaving 27 flavors of action research. Action Research.  1. pp 133-152.

Participatory Action Research can be used during project design to assist in ensuring that the intervention is targeted towards people’s needs. It can also be used during project implementation.

The project team can undertake PAR directly, or engage a local knowledge partner or CSO to work with local communities on PAR.

This involves recurrent stages of Planning, Action and Reflection, and Evaluation.* Typical stages of a PAR project, as described by Kindon, Pain and Kesby, are:

  1. Action. Establish relationships and common agenda with all stakeholders. Collaboratively decide on issues.

    Reaction. Reflect on the research design, ethics, knowledge, and accountability.

  1. Action. Build relationships. Identify roles and responsibilities. Collectively design research processes and tools. Discuss potential outcomes.

    Reaction. Reflect on research questions, working relationships and information required.

  1. Action. Work together to implement research and collect data. Enable participation of all members. Collaboratively analyze ­findings and plan future actions.

    Reaction. Reflect on how the participants worked together. Ask what else need to be done.

  1. Action. Begin to work on feeding research back to all participants and plan for feedback on process and ­findings.

    Reaction. Evaluate both the action and reflection processes as a whole.

  1. Action. Collectively identify future research and impacts.*

*S. Kindon, R. Pain and M. Kesby. 2007. Participatory action research approaches and methods: connecting people, participation and place. Routledge.

Participatory action research toward climate change adaptation in the Coral Triangle   

In 2010, the ADB launched a regional technical assistance to address concerns raised by five Pacific developing member countries in the Coral Triangle: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, and Vanuatu. The project used participatory approaches and engaged communities in assessing the impacts of climate change and identifying adaptation actions that could be integrated into existing efforts to build resilient fishing and farming livelihoods.  

The project team worked with fishing and farming communities, local NGOs, and representatives of regional and national government in Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste to identify and assess options for adapting to climate change. Through community participatory activities, participants identified likely impacts of climate change on fishing and farming livelihoods and actions that may help communities adapt to climate change. The communities selected adaptations they wanted to evaluate further for their economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits. Fisherfolk and farmers used this information to develop a plan for implementing appropriate adaptations.  

The project addressed three considerations in carrying out these activities:

  • First, the project equitably and genuinely engaged with community members, including women and children, and those marginalized and disempowered. 
  • Second, it considered socioeconomic and technical adaptation measures. When pursuing adaptation technologies, a socioeconomic environment that enables stakeholders to make informed decisions and act on them is critical. 
  • Lastly, activities addressed climate change adaptation as an integrated, multiscale issue, recognizing the individual and collective influence of community members, local NGOs, and government representatives in enabling adaptation.

ADB. 2015. Climate Change in Coral Triangle of the Pacific Coutries: Supporting Communities to Adapt. ADB Briefs.
ADB. 2010. Technical Assistance for Strengthening Coastal and Marine Resources Management in the Coral Triangle of the Pacific. Manila.

S. Kindon, R. Pain and M. Kesby. 2007. Participatory action research approaches and methods: connecting people, participation and place. Routledge

R. Pain et al. No date. Participatory Action Research Toolkit: An Introduction to Using PAR as an Approach to Learning, Research and Action. Durham: Durham University.

[This toolkit was developed as a result of the project “Building Adaptive Strategies for Environmental Change with Land Use Managers”, which was funded under the ESRC Rural Economy and Land Use Programme, 2010-11.]

C. MacDonald. 2012. Understanding Participatory Action Research: A qualitative methodology option Dalhousie University. Canadian Journal of Action Research. 13 (2). pp. 34-50.

M. Minker. 2000. Using participatory action research to build healthy communities. Public Health Reports 115 (2/3). pp 191-197.

Participatory Video

Participatory video is a tool for individuals and groups which enables people to see themselves in relation to their world and the changes in it and focus on their own and their community’s needs in light of these changes. Participatory video has been identified to have the potential to bring about personal, social, political and cultural change. Participatory video provides participants with a platform for discussion on shared issues of concern, and this can occur throughout the production process.

It gives voice to those who make the films, allowing them to communicate their messages effectively to decision-makers and policy-makers. The process itself of making a video provides those involved with a deeper understanding of themselves, their concerns and the concerns of their communities.

It is usually undertaken during Technical Assistance factfinding (TRTA, KSTA). Video can also be used for starting dialog and community building that may prove beneficial in post-conflict Pacific societies which have faced internal strife.

Participatory video is a group process, facilitated by a professional filmmaker, which builds participants’ capacity to communicate with others. Participants in the participatory video process are usually those from the target group or beneficiaries, and their audiences may be decision-makers, the communities from which they come, or the broader public.

Step-by-step as described on Transformative Storytelling for Social Change:

  1. Allot some time for the group to discuss and reflect on key community issues in confidence, before communicating to external audiences.
  2. The group produces a video material based on their own knowledge and perspectives to stimulate dialog with peers, outside of the immediate group. Storyboarding helps to develop a strong collective story.
  3. Editing the film is a key stage in the process. Paper edits are used to minimize the complexity of digital editing and allow for a more participatory process.
  4. Groups share the films with each other and plan how to use their films to generate debate and communicate with external audiences.
  5. The development of a communication strategy for the films is an important component of the process as it requires considering what can be communicated, to who and when—and the risks that might be involved.

U.S. Harris. 2008. Video for Empowerment and Social Change a Case Study with Rural Women in Fiji. Singapore: Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) and Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University (WKWSCI-NTU).

M. Saifoloi et al. 2016. Participatory Video and the Pacific Mamas: a Pilot Project

Transformative Storytelling for Social Change. Unitec ePress Research Report Series (2).

Transformative Storytelling for Social Change. The Process of Participatory Video.  

Television Drama or Edutainment

Television drama or edutainment is a powerful tool able to reach audiences with content that may be sensitive or even taboo. Television and DVDs can use drama to impart important social messages, but other formats include documentaries, comedies, lifestyle programs, and news.

Television is generally available to rural communities in the Pacific and is a powerful tool to communicate with a population with low literacy rates. DVDs are also used extensively in communities: often there is a community TV with a DVD player that many in the village will watch together. TV/DVDs act as a creative way of raising awareness in local languages and using examples that are close to the community’s culture and tradition.

Television/DVDs can be used in project implementation and monitoring.

Project implementer and beneficiaries, with the assistance of a commercial or not-for-profit production company.

Drama captures people's imagination like no other television format, and half-hour to one-hour episodes can be used to impart important information.

Love Patrol Television Drama  

The ADB financed the production of the third season of Wan Smolbag’s  Love Patrol, which raises awareness about safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention. Photo credit: ADB.

The ADB-financed HIV/AIDS Prevention and Capacity Development in the Pacific project contributed to improving the management and delivery of HIV and AIDS prevention by targeting vulnerable populations in 10 countries. Variable literacy rates in the Pacific and the geographic isolation of many island countries called for a medium that could reach out and communicate with the target population.   

Wan Smolbag, an NGO based in Vanuatu, produced theLove Patrol television series. The show effectively reached vulnerable young people. Under this project, ADB financed the production of a third series,Love Patrol 3, which focused on safe sex and HIV/AIDS. This approach, called ‘edutainment,’ is growing across a number of countries around the world. The series was broadcast on primetime television in several Pacific countries, including Cook Islands, Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu. Data from the Cook Islands and Vanuatu suggested between 55% and 86% of the urban population saw Love Patrol 3. The project also supported the distribution of the Love Patrol 3 DVD and accompanying resource guide to health agencies, NGOs, schools, community groups, and other organizations.  

Love Patrol has proven popular. According to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, "a random street poll showed that over 90% of people [in Port Vila, the capital] were watching every episode, even the repeats."  

Source: ADB. 2011. HIV/AIDS Prevention and Capacity Development in the Pacific. Project Completion Report. Manila.


Breaking  the  culture  of  silence    around  domestic  violence  in  Solomon  Islands  

The documentary on domestic violence, hosted on YouTube, can be viewed through various channels, including smartphones. Photo credit: ADB.

In the Solomon Islands, a strong culture of silence has surrounded gender-based violence, which is widespread. A women’s group in the Solomon Islands, Vois Blo Mere Solomons, recognized that they would need an innovative approach to challenge cultural norms.  

With support from UN Women and the Australian government, Vois Blo Mere Solomons has released a powerful 17-minute documentary about gender-based and domestic violence in their country. The documentary presents women who come forward and tell their stories of domestic abuse, against the prevailing culture. It also shares information about where women can get help, what services are available to them and how they can find them. The documentary is available on YouTube and will be used to create awareness about the impact of gender-based violence and to advocate for action to stop domestic violence. Vois Blo Mere Solomons will share the video widely across the provinces through schools, community focal points, and media networks.  

Source: Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development. 2017. Vois Blo Mere Solomons Launches Documentary on Survivors of Gender-Based Violence.  

Some Do’s and Don’ts


  • Plan for participation in implementation during the design phase using participatory approaches.
  • Be clear with participants on the purpose of their participation and the use of the results and outputs.
  • Take the lead from the community on how to tackle sensitive issues.
  • Encourage the use of local languages, situations, actors, and idioms for implementation activities.
  • Be aware of and promote child and gender rights, confidentiality and informed consent.
  • Conduct pilot tests to ensure that implementation activities encourage the desired behavior, skill, or knowledge.
  • Provide adequate resources, time, capacity-building training and support.
  • Recognize that the process of participatory implementation is as important as the outcome.


  • Emphasize the role of the expert and Western values: participatory methods of implementation, especially in communications for development, is about empowering the community to put the expert/researcher/facilitator on an equal footing with the participants.
  • Assume that people want to be involved in participatory implementation activities.
  • Ignore the challenges of using mass media for implementation activities such as ownership of media outlets, cost, time, and access to electricity/internet by project beneficiaries.
  • Assume the community has one ‘voice’: communities have diverse opinions and often conflicting views.
  • Under-resource the implementation phase.
  • Forget traditional gender dynamics.
  • Assume that the learning will be one-way: facilitators and experts are learners, too.


Lainie C. Thomas
Unit Head, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Department, Asian Development Bank

Lainie Thomas heads the Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations (FCAS) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) unit. Prior to her current assignment, she supported civil society participation in ADB’s operations through its NGO and Civil Society Center and led health and education projects in Southeast Asia. Before joining ADB, she worked for a range of international and local nongovernment organizations. With more than 25 years of development experience, she has also worked in the field in Kenya, South Sudan, Azerbaijan, Somalia, Cambodia, and The Gambia.

Emma Walters
Management and Participatory Engagement Consultant, Asian Development Bank

Emma has 20 years’ experience working with Australian and international organizations. Over the past eight years, she has worked on projects designed to increase civil society participation in ADB work, with a focus on the Pacific. Her expertise includes facilitation, training, and partnerships for international development. Since 2012, she has also worked with the University of Sydney as a soft-skills trainer on Australian-government funded short course programs on agricultural research in Africa.

Suzanne M. Nazal
Senior Social Development Consultant (Civil Society and Participation), Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, Asian Development Bank

Suzanne Nazal organizes knowledge events, develops knowledge products, and provides technical support related to strengthening civil society participation and engagement in ADB’s operations. She also co-manages the social media platforms for ADB’s NGO and Civil Society Center. Suzanne worked with several NGOs in the Philippines before joining ADB. She holds a master's degree in urban and regional planning from the University of the Philippines.

Ninebeth S. Carandang
Principal Social Development Specialist, Human and Social Development Sector Office, Sectors Group

Ninebeth Carandang is in charge of ensuring safeguards compliance of ADB-funded projects in the Pacific region, supporting the engagement of civil society organizations at various stages of the project, and managing the resolution of project grievances including concerns raised by civil society. She has over a decade of work experience in the field of social development, poverty, and gender.

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