Tuesday 6
Participation and scale: stories of resilience and development in rural systems
Laura Schmitt Olabisi
› 11:30 - 12:30 (1h)
Participation and scale: stories of resilience and development in rural systems
Laura Schmitt Olabisi  1, *@  , Robert Richardson  1@  , John Kerr  1@  
1 : Department of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University
* : Corresponding author


Recently, participatory methods have received attention from resilience scholars for their promise in achieving scientific understanding of complex systems, reaching consensus on development interventions, and creating ‘buy-in' among the people who would put these interventions into practice. However, significant challenges to implementing participatory approaches to development remain, and many of these challenges have to do with scale. Participatory work is often seen as infeasible at scales larger than local or community scales, yet significant decision-making power is concentrated at higher scales of governance. On the other hand, the voices of vulnerable and marginalized populations may not be heard in national or global fora. Moreover, many trends that impact the lives and livelihoods of rural people in the developing world operate at national or global scales, and are therefore exogenous to participatory processes at the community level.


We will present three case studies of resilience and participation in rural development, using a ‘story-telling' format. The goal of this type of presentation is to create an informal environment in which session participants are invited to share their own experiences and learn from one another. Each case study will highlight a key question for the research and practice of resilience in rural development, which will form the basis for discussion in small groups. These small groups will be facilitated by the session chair/speakers and will form the bulk of the proposed session. Discussion guides and note templates will be available in the small groups, as tools to keep the conversation focused and for reporting back to the large group.


Discussion questions drawn from the case studies include:

While focusing on a particular scale at which to target development interventions, how do we deal with threats to the intervention that arise at higher or lower scales?

How can a participatory research framework be used to identify strategies for adaptation to exogenous change at the community scale?

How can we design natural resource management systems in ways that address social and environmental interests at multiple scales while also balancing local autonomy with protection of the weak?


This session fits the ‘Development challenges through a resilience lens' theme.



  • Introduction (5 min.) –session chair
  • Stories from the field (15 min) – three speakers
  • Small-group table discussion around questions raised by these case studies (25 min)
  • Report back and summary of small-group discussions (15 min) - facilitated by session chair


Titles and Authors of Presentations:

Organic agriculture as a resilience strategy (Laura Schmitt Olabisi, Michigan State University, Department of Community Sustainability)


Participatory frameworks for enhancing rural food security and community resilience (Robert B. Richardson, Michigan State University, Department of Community Sustainability)


Procurement auctions for fair and efficient environmental services contract allocation (John Kerr, MSU, Department of Community Sustainability)

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