It is argued that there has been little attention given to comparing the range of 'participatory' research methodologies available to determine which among them afford donor agencies cost-effective means of obtaining accurate information about the views and preferences of project stakeholders. The paper contributes experimental evidence to this debate by comparing two research methods: community meetings and household surveys.
In July 1994 both research approaches were used simultaneously in Lugazi, Uganda, in an attempt to assess households demand for improved water and sanitation services (n=384 interviews in the household survey, while five community meetings were held with attendance ranging from 50 to 225 people). The findings of the household survey and the community meetings suggested similar policy recommendations regarding the provision of improved water supply and sanitation services; however, the best practicable sampling strategy for each methodology produced groups with different socioeconomic characteristics. This finding suggests that donor agencies committed to conducting project identification, implementation, and evaluation in a participatory manner need more information about the accuracy and reliability of different techniques used to elicit project stakeholder views.
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