Critical Reflections Concerning the Concept of Participation in Social Intervention and Research


  • Helena Neves de Almeida Professor and Researcher, University of Coimbra
  • Ana Maria Costa e Silva


participation, research, social intervention, social transformation1.


In processes oriented towards social change and transformation, the specification of different concepts and levels of participation is an important intellectual and epistemic challenge. Critical questioning of participation in social intervention and research is fundamental for structuring a common understanding and a grammar for intervention, which supports, in theory, the construction of a type of architecture of participation, that is, a conceptual network that sets the parameters for the evaluation of participation. The concept of participation, used so frequently in a populist way, can adapt as easily to objectives of regulation, as to social transformation, and can be subordinate to such divergent paradigms of social intervention such as task-centered interventions, the building of opportunities for development and the processes which aim to improve personal and social decision-making. One of the major goals of participation is to increase the power of individuals and collective decision-making. Beyond this individual and micro-level dimension, it reveals processes of co-construction of social alternatives and structures of opportunity on the meso level (the community) and the macro level (the political instance). Thus, participation in the present day constitutes a strategic axis for social intervention and research. It is necessary to reflect about it. How to operationalize participation? How important is the way it tackles and develops participation in research and transformative social intervention?