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Participatory appraisal methods

Participatory appraisal is a consultation method that is easy and non-threatening for participants.

Participatory appraisal avoids the disadvantages of traditional consultation methods like submissions and public meetings. These methods, while useful, exclude people who cannot read or write, and people who are uncomfortable about speaking in public.

Participatory appraisal includes visual techniques (like photographs) and verbal techniques (like face-to-face interviews). You can select one technique, or use whatever mix suits your purpose.

Face-to-face interviews

Face-to-face interviews can take place in workshops and in public places like schools, parks, streets, and sports clubs. Interviewers can go out into the community and ask people about the place they live.

At its simplest, a face-to-face interview might involve asking people the three questions (What do you like about your area? What don’t you like about your area? What would you like to change about your area?) instead of putting the questions in a survey.


In a traditional public meeting, councillors and public officials speak, and the public is given a short time to ask questions. A SpeakOut event reverses that format. It provides an opportunity for members of the public to speak, while officials listen and then ask questions. SpeakOut needs a high level of facilitation skills, and clear and objective note taking.


Photographs help to get the views of people who may not have good speaking, reading, or writing skills.

An example of this technique is giving participants disposable cameras, and asking them to photograph what they do and don’t like about their environment. Planning and design professionals then interpret the photographs, and give their feedback to the community before any decisions are made.

A cheaper alternative could be to ask people to draw what they do and don’t like about their environment.

Visual records

The visual records (or mapping) technique involves participants recording their likes and dislikes on a map of their environment. Participants can use coloured drawing pins, Post-Its, or stickers to code the things they do and don’t like about the place they live. Using a visual record like this provides an excellent focus for a workshop.