Monday, October 30, 2006

There’s more than one art to creative PRA
Helen Gould


Think of participatory development, for one moment, as an orchestra. It would be inconceivable to use just one instrument. With PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal), as with orchestras, you need a balance of skills, a range of instruments and players, performing in concert. This analogy fits in well with the historical development of PRA as a family of tools which complement each other.

More recently, creative activities are being included in the tool kit of PRA. This is an exciting development but one worrying aspect is the increasing dominance of theatre within this group of creative tools. Creativity is a core language of human expression in participatory development, but just as the orchestra, there is a variety of instruments which help a community verbalise their needs and solutions creatively. It would be a dull world indeed if acting was our only form of self-expression. What, then, of our poets, painters and craft-makers, our musicians and dancers?

Learning through creativity

One example of a project which has these values close at heart is Katha, a literacy development project. This works with some 10,000 families in one of the largest slums in New Delhi, India.
Katha was set up by author Geeta Dharmarajan in 1988, initially as a health and environmental education project. It is now an integrated development project, which specialises in teaching LIFE skills (literacy and lifelong learning, income generation skills, family well-being and empowerment). It uses an enormous range of activities to spread the joys of books and reading, to empower women and children, break down gender and social barriers, and to encourage learning through creativity.

The Indian literacy tradition spans a continuum from the spoken word - storytelling and performance - to written texts. Thus, as part of this legacy, Katha uses all the creative tools at its disposal - theatre, storytelling, writing and film, cartoons and magazine publishing - to ‘make an impact, motivate and excite many, many people in a myriad of ways’.

To read the whole article, go here.


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