How can developers assess community support?

Speeches Shim

Short Answer

During the planning process, it’s important to assess the level of community support for a mini-grid project. When projects don’t have strong community support, they’re less likely to achieve desired results. Negative impacts like underuse, nonpayment, theft, or conflict can result. An inclusive assessment of community support can provide valuable information to inform project decisions.

To reach the community effectively, the developer needs to determine how information about development projects normally reaches community members and which communication channels are most effective. Developers should use both quantitative and qualitative techniques to measure community support.

Further Explanation of Key Points

Public Meetings

General public meetings can be good settings for seeking community members’ views. Village-wide meetings should take place when most members of the community are available. Meetings will attract more participants if developers promote the events widely. Women generally have less free time, so it’s important to find out when women would be more likely to attend public meetings.

One disadvantage of large public meetings is the risk of elite capture. Elite capture occurs when the more privileged members of a community dominate a discussion. The views presented may not represent those of the community at large. Public meetings may fail to capture opinions from women or members of other marginalized groups.

Focus Group Discussions

Focus group discussions are small-group discussions that bring together as many as 15 people from similar backgrounds to talk about an issue of common interest. Focus group discussions help developers gain a deeper understanding of how people feel about a project. By meeting with diverse members of the community in smaller groups, developers are more likely to hear a range of opinions.

Separate focus group discussions are one way to mitigate elite capture. Women, minorities and other marginalized members of the community may feel more comfortable sharing their views in small groups of their peers. In particular, developers may want to organize separate focus groups for women and men. Men and women have different energy needs, knowledge of local resources, and ability to pay, so they are likely to provide different feedback. Other focus groups might include households with similar energy-use patterns, small business owners or individuals with similar economic and social status.

Like public meetings, focus group discussions must accommodate participants’ time constraints. To be productive, they require skilled facilitators to keep discussions on track. A representative of each focus group discussion should present the group’s views and recommendations at the next public village-wide meeting.

Surveys and Questionnaires

Surveys are effective ways to collect both quantitative and qualitative information about community support for mini-grid projects. Surveys enable developers to get information from many people at the same time, quickly gathering useful data.

Project developers may administer questionnaires through one-on-one interviews or distribute them to community members to complete on their own. To administer surveys through one-on-one interviews, developers will need interviewers fluent in the local language and dialect. In some cases, the developer might need to translate the questionnaire into a local language to enable community members to participate.

Priority Ranking

Priority ranking is a type of survey that asks respondents to rate the relative importance of different items. Where resources are scarce, communities may have to make choices among competing priorities. For example, households with limited incomes may have to choose between food, clean water, health services, education and energy services. Priority ranking would ask low-income families to rank these items in order of importance, reflecting how they choose to spend their income.

Priority ranking helps the mini-grid project developer understand the importance consumers attach to specific energy services. The level of importance attached to the energy service influences the willingness to pay for these services.

When using priority ranking, respondents must understand each item to be ranked. To help low-literacy respondents, the survey can use a symbol to represent each item.


World Bank/Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). Gender: Social Inclusion in the Energy Sector | Online Tools.
ESMAP’s online tools provide an overview of participatory community engagement techniques to help involve women in energy projects.

Last updated: February 13, 2018

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