Value of Public Involvement
Public participation, in a broad sense, is becoming part of Bank activities in many areas (including sector work as well as projects). Participatory approaches have been most widely used in rural development projects, although there is increasing involvement of local communities in the design and implementation of urban and rural water and sanitation programs. A study of rural water supply projects concluded that the effectiveness of participation was the single most important determinant of overall quality of implementation (ref. 1).
Recent OED annual Evaluation Results have concluded that beneficiary participation in preparation enhances the sustainability of projects. In response to concerns of task managers it was noted that the design phases typically required 10-15% more staff weeks for preparation but much of this additional cost was covered by outside funding sources and that longer preparation time was typically made up by speedy negotiation and quick loan effectiveness.
Bank experience with public involvement in pollution management is still limited but this is changing. As well as involving those directly affected by a program or project, public involvement can also help to build an informed constituency to influence pollution management priority setting and build support for enforcement. It may also be a way to reach and educate small scale industry.
Public involvement is a way to ensure that the project is relevant to local needs and responds to local concerns. It can improve the overall quality and success of a project and should be endorsed by task managers as an integral part of project identification and design.