Participatory Diagnostics

Participatory diagnostics are tools to be used both at the beginning of a workshop and at the beginning of a more in-depth, sustained community outreach process.

Participatory diagnostics aim to shed light on what the community already knows about a topic, what skills and knowledge does the group bring to the table, and what they feel their most pressing issues are, and their solutions. They take as a starting point the idea that everyone present has something to contribute, and that everyone in the room is equal. The aim is to deconstruct the teacher-learner relationship: everyone can learn from everyone else, improving self-esteem and furthering empowerment in the process.

Before running a participatory diagnostic you may wish to run the following preliminary activity in order for the workshop participants to get to grips with its aims and methods.

Activity 1: Preparing for participatory diagnostics: What is a participatory diagnostic? What do we do to get to know our community?

If you have enough time, it is interesting to start a workshop with this activity to share ideas about what a participatory diagnostic is.

  • Materials: Flip charts, small pieces of cardboard, markers and some tape. 
  • Activities: Create groups to discuss what people do to learn about the reality of their community or neighborhood. Ask the following questions: 
    • What information is gathered about the community?
    • How is it gathered?
    • Who participates?
    • How is the information used?

At the end of this first step, draw up a definition of a Participatory Diagnostic, stressing their importance.

Activity 2: Conducting participatory diagnostics – brainstorm

Aim: to identify achievements and difficulties of/within the community by promoting people’s skills in solving these issues.

Materials: Flip charts, small pieces of cardboard, markers and some tape.


  • Put up two flip charts: one for achievements and the other for difficulties.
  • Hand out cards (as many as you like or e.g. 3 per person – as you prefer) for people to write corresponding community achievements and struggles on. Cards can be written individually or in groups. It is recommended to work in groups to aid subsequent reflection.
  • Read the cards out and stick them on the relevant flip charts one by one.
  • Then classify the issues/achievements thematically by having the participants read them aloud and identify similarities. Similar cards should be stuck together e.g. education, work, etc.
  • At this stage the facilitator’s role is to lead the group to synthesize what is written on the cards such that an organized and unified vision of the various issues arises.
  • The facilitators must not arrange the cards according to their own criteria: the participants must situate the cards.
  • Once the categories are set and analyzed, order the issues by importance. This can be done by voting group by group on each aspect of the card groups. It could work by issuing 2 stickers to each person in the group and having them stick them on the most important issues.
    • This activity could also use thematic classification (e.g. work, health, education) rather than achievements and difficulties.
    • Achievements and difficulties could refer to achievements and difficulties on a personal, social and/or community level (the personal level leads into the social/community level).

Activity 3: Conducting participatory diagnostics – trip to the future

Aim: To gather the community’s aspirations.

Material: Large flip charts, small pieces of card, marker pens, paints, sticky tape.


  • Participants close their eyes and imagine a trip to the future, visualizing their community in 5-10 years.
  • The group must divide into smaller groups (depending on how many participants there are), with different roles (use the roles present in the community or neighborhood where you are working):
    • Representatives of public institutions
    • Civil society representatives
    • Women’s representatives
    • Young people’s / children’s representatives, etc.
  • It is important to support participants with this visualization, posing questions such as:
    • What services should the community have?
    • What difficulties should they overcome?
    • What skills can we develop further?
    • How would we like to participate in the community’s decisions?
  • For 10-15 minutes, draw this community on the flip charts on the wall so that everyone can visualize it.
  • Organize this information in a table with the aspirations of all the groups.
  • In the first column, stick the cards with all the participants’ aspirations (or as many as can fit). Mark the group/participant that expressed each aspiration.
  • Draw conclusions from the information that you have just organized: one person should be asked to summarize this on the flip chart.
  • Re-read the conclusions in order to end the activity.

In all of the above activities it is important to:

  • Promote everyone’s participation,
  • Make people’s own skills visible – when listing achievements – and keep them in mind for future interactions.