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Information and Power: Implications for Process Monitoring - A Review of the Literature

Working papers

Process documentation and monitoring (PDR) seeks to capture the evolution of relationships between different institutions and actors in the course of a project, and to build on these so as to establish institutional capacity. As part of this objective, PDR aims to analyse the relationships between different actors in development projects and so build an understanding of relations of power and dominance. The attempt to build a consensus on development issues amongst different actors will then be informed by a more accurate assessment of these power relations. PDR is based on the analysis of information flow between different actors, and on their opinions and perceptions. It therefore relies on actors putting information in the public realm, on this information being placed in the public realm in a non-strategic way, on the observer having at least the intention of being objective, and on the information being developed into knowledge which does not transform its content.

PDR cuts right to the heart of several controversial issues. It addresses the power relations within a locality, between different actors, between observers and participants, between the periphery and the centre. It therefore necessitates a consideration of the relationship between structure and agency, because it presupposes that whilst there are structures which constrain actors, these actors also have the agency to change these structures. In the PDR context these issues all revolve around the central theme of how the relation between power, information generation and knowledge is manifested.

This paper reviews the way in which these issues have been explored in the literature. The guiding question is ‘whether there are conceptual frameworks and/or existing empirical work which invalidate the (western liberal) assumption underlying PDR& PM, namely that actors (whether NGO or GO) will be willing to put information in a common pool for access by others from similar or different organisations?’.

Pari Baumann