‘Eh! I felt I was sabotaged!’: facilitators’ understandings of success in a participatory HIV and IPV prevention intervention in urban South Africa

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Abstract

Participatory approaches to behaviour change dominate HIV- and intimate partner violence prevention interventions. Research has identified multiple challenges in the delivery of these. In this article, we focus on how facilitators conceptualize successful facilitation and how these understandings may undermine dialogue and critical consciousness, through a case study of facilitators engaged in the delivery of Stepping Stones and Creating Futures and ten focus-group discussions held with facilitators. All facilitators continually emphasized the importance of discussion and active engagement by participants. However, other understandings of successful facilitation also emerged, including group management—particularly securing high levels of attendance; ensuring answers provided by participants were ‘right’; being active facilitators; and achieving behaviour change. These in various ways potentially undermined dialogue and the emergence of critical thinking. We locate these different understandings of success as located in the wider context of conceptualizations of autonomy and structure; historical experiences of work and education; and the ongoing tension between the requirements of rigorous research and those of participatory interventions. We suggest a new approach to training and support for facilitators is required if participatory interventions are to be delivered at scale, as they must be.

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