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SARAR: Self-esteem, Associative strength, Resourcefulness, Action planning and Responsibility

SARAR Techniques

Creative techniques 
Investigative techniques
Analytical techniques
Planning techniques

Informative techniques

SARAR is an education/training methodology for working with stakeholders at different levels to engage their creative capacities in planning, problem solving and evaluation. The acronym SARAR stands for the five attributes and capacities that are considered the minimum essentials for participation to be a dynamic and self-sustaining process:
  • Self-esteem: a sense of self-worth as a person as well as a valuable resource for development.

  • Associative strength: the capacity to define and work toward a common vision through mutual respect, trust, and collaborative effort.

  • Resourcefulness: the capacity to visualize new solutions to problems even against the odds, and the willingness to be challenged and take risks.

  • Action planning: combining critical thinking and creativity to come up with new, effective, and reality-based plans in which each participant has a useful and fulfilling role.

  • Responsibility: for follow-through until the commitments made are fully discharged and the hoped-for benefits achieved.

SARAR is based on the principle of fostering and strengthening these five attributes among the stakeholders involved in the evaluation. Such a process will enable the development of those people's own capacities for self-direction and management and will enhance the quality of participation among all of the stakeholders.

The various SARAR techniques can be grouped into five categories according to how they are most commonly used. While there is no set order in which these techniques are used, the five types of techniques are often applied progressively, having a cumulative effect. 

  • Creative techniques involve the use of open-ended visual tools such as mapping and non-serial posters to encourage participants to break out of conventional ideas and routine ways of thinking 

  • Investigative techniques such as pocket charts are designed to help participants do their own needs assessment by collecting and compiling data on problems and situations in their community 

  • Analytical techniques including three pile sorting and gender analysis tools enable participants to prioritize problems and opportunities and to examine a problem in depth, allowing them to better understand its causes and identify alternative solutions 

  • Planning techniques are used to simplify the planning process so decisions can be made, not only by the more prestigious and articulate participants (such as community leaders or senior staff), but also by the less powerful, including non-literate community members. Planning techniques include story with a gap, force-field analysis and software-hardware exercise. 

  • Informative techniques help gather information and use it for better decision-making.

At the outset, participants are involved in using their creativity to look at situations in new ways and to build their capacity for self-expression. Then, they gain tools for investigating and analyzing reality in more detail. Finally, they develop skills in gathering information, making decisions, and planning initiatives. 

Less successful applications of SARAR have usually been traced to insufficient training of the SARAR facilitators. Without adequate preparation, facilitators will not feel comfortable experimenting with the different techniques, and may be more inclined to adopt a blueprint approach, that is, always using the same set of techniques in a predetermined way and not being responsive to the differences among communities or the various groups of stakeholders.

In other cases, problems have arisen when the use of SARAR techniques has been considered an end in itself, rather than a means to support the development and implementation of project activities. This problem can occur when SARAR activities are not linked to concrete follow-up activities. In such cases communities eventually see no benefit in being involved in the SARAR sessions and the whole process begins to break down.

The effectiveness of SARAR, like that of similar participatory techniques, can also be limited by a general resistance-usually by higher level managers and decision-makers rather than field workers or community members-to the use of qualitative, informal, and visual-based techniques. This can lead to problems if these skeptics obstruct the SARAR process by dismissing the results as unscientific or the participatory process itself as inefficient.

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