Research into the flow of information at grassroots level was carried out by Tearfund in Uganda and Ghana in 1996 and 1997. The research was supported by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and the findings were published in Education Paper Serial No 31, Carter, I, London, DFID in 1999.  Informal research into the impact of PILLARS was carried out during 2006 and included visits to Peru and Burkina Faso. The findings are shared in a report available from Tearfund.

The original research was carried out with 76 self-formed groups of farmers. The findings revealed a considerable lack of written information concerning development issues (just 4% of group members owned some kind of printed information on agriculture). Access to other information and the media was generally low. Any relevant information that was available was often shared in a group or family setting where people with literacy skills ‘read for the group’. The research found that given improved access to simple, relevant and practical information, people’s self-confidence and their ability to make positive change increased considerably.

The findings highlighted the importance of small groups in sharing information and the need for end users to be involved in designing relevant printed information in their own languages. 

PILLARS has developed as a way of turning these findings into practical action. Use of the guides restores people’s right to receive and share information in their own tongue and participate in the development of their communities. The generation, use and sharing of information in local languages encourages and gives confidence and value to marginalized groups. The discussion process helps groups to manage their own change and engage in local decision-making processes. PILLARS guides emphasise collective learning, rather than individual reading.

Further learning about PILLARS includes workshop reports, newsletters and a baseline survey to help assess the impact of using PILLARS.