Development strategies based on centralised public investment and profit motivated private sector leadership, without suitable modifications to address poverty issues, have shown limited success in poverty reduction in many developing countries. It is in this background that participatory development programmes have come to be advocated as necessary add-ons to development strategies based on programmes of public and private investment. As part of participatory development strategies, the desirability of the empowerment of the poor has come to be emphasised as a long-term solution to poverty. The importance of opening up avenues for the poor to generate their own sources of income and providing them with basic amenities of life are being highlighted.

Most participatory development exercises are to be found in the setting of poor rural communities. This paper examines a series of participatory development interventions in urban poor settings in Sri Lanka. These interventions have been made with the assistance and involvement of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) programme. The paper explains the contextual background of the work of JOCV members in urban poverty reduction work within selected locations. It reports the results of an extensive interview survey of the programmes' beneficiaries and evaluates the effectiveness, sustainability, and relevance of community participation programmes of poverty reduction in urban settings. The authors argue that a foreign aided programme of this nature could achieve a great deal more in community development if the necessary local institutional adjustments are facilitated and the programme's elements of community participation and collaboration are strengthened.