The social collective as a unit of analysis

Participatory evaluation is intrinsically collective and qualitative, that is its essence. In this short testimony, Carmen Luz Sánchez (Calu) emphasises that the key to participatory evaluation is to train the different stakeholders to ensure their assimilation of the tools needed to carry out the entire process.

Calu has over four years’ experience in participatory evaluation with the Servicio País program, which was implemented in Chile by the Foundation for Overcoming Poverty (Fundación para la Superación de la Pobreza). In her testimony (with English subtitles), she claims that this approach to evaluation must go hand in hand with an intervention strategy that allows the users of the program to take centre stage.

Carmen Luz Sánchez is from Santiago, Chile. A sociologist from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Sydney, she has specialised in quantitative and qualitative methods in social research and program evaluation. She has worked as a lecturer and researcher in both fields. Her main interests are poverty, urban sociology and participatory tools. She is currently the Evaluation and Program Management Coordinator of the Servicio País program for the Foundation for Overcoming Poverty (Chile), a civil society organisation in partnership with the EvalParticipativa virtual community. Over the past five years she has worked in the design, development and implementation of participatory evaluation in social interventions.


A year ends, a new opportunity is born

Dear EvalParticipativa community, we are about to wrap up a 2020 that nobody would have wished for. A sanitary crisis like we had never experienced that has had and will continue to have economic and social consequences that are still difficult to estimate.

It has also been a year we will remember for the collective effort to hold on and to find reasons to keep going. Self-isolating to protect our elders, doubling our selfless efforts, searching for new balance in family life, being there even when we cannot be. This virus makes us stronger every day because it requires us to retrieve the essence of the sense of community. In a crisis such as we are living, the instructions are not “help me” but “find somebody to help”.

This is why we are convinced that communities like ours are the way forward. So it comes as no surprise to us that in 2020 our space for practice and learning consolidated and even exceeded the most optimistic expectations. For this reason, above all else, we thank you and applaud your effort to make your presence felt through EvalParticipativa.

We wish you an end of the year in the company of your loved ones, in peace and with hope. A big hug from the EvalParticipativa coordination team!


Let the protagonists speak!

We are happy and grateful to launch a new section in the EvalParticipativa website, our community for practice and learning. It is a series of short video testimonies on evaluation and social participation. Through them, we will share ideas, suggestions, examples and lessons learnt on participatory evaluation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

During this time we have learnt that video testimonies can bring credibility to words by bringing to life the experience, the concept and the recommendation that arise in our practices. On the other hand, and in contrast with written texts, the testimony of a person speaking in a concrete context carries emotions that enrich the content of their message.

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Dear community,

A few weeks ago, we shared an interesting conversation on our platform about participatory evaluation possibilities in times of covid-19.

Many of you had already demonstrated great optimism and confidence that it could work and today we are pleased to be able to back this up with a little more information.

As you know, online formats have become the safest, if not the only, way to build capacity in these pandemic times. This has also been understood by the EvalYouth initiative and Focelac project leaders who have arranged a series of online workshops aimed at strengthening the capacity of young and/or emerging evaluators (YEEs) in the region. The University of Costa Rica has taught a Masters in Evaluation for over 17 years and is now delivering its program fully online and asked us to participate in the section on Participatory Evaluation which features in the modules on evaluation approaches for the Latin American reality.

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Dear friends and colleagues, we are still receiving responses to our open call for meaningful lessons in participatory evaluation. This time from Alexandra Santillana (senior evaluator at Global Affairs Canada) together with Fabiola Amariles and Ana Isabel Arenas (consultants at Learning for Impact). Below they share with us a rich reflection on feminist and participatory evaluation taken from their experience working with rural community development projects in Colombia. Many thanks for your contributions and let’s keep learning!


This experience, which took place between May and November 2018, was not strictly speaking a participatory evaluation, but provides reflection on some lessons learned from applying principles from feminist evaluation and participatory methods in rural development community projects. This pilot was run within the framework of a conventional evaluation led by the Canadian Ministry of Global Affairs (GAC).

Inspired by Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP)¹ and taking advantage of an evaluation already underway as part of the Canadian cooperation program in Colombia, a mixed team of evaluators was formed including Canadian and Colombian specialists to design and implement the pilot.

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Bravo EvalParticipativa!

By J. Bradley Cousins and Hind Al Hudib
University of Ottawa, Canada

EvalParticipativa – what an amazing space! We are longtime fans, researchers, and purveyors of participatory evaluation but in our experience, EvalParticipativa is unparalleled as a space for professional exchange, capacity building, and learning in this domain. It is our very great honour to contribute to, and become part of, the EvalParticipativa community.

Participatory evaluation (PE) has been near and dear to our hearts for a very long time. One of us (Cousins) has been writing about this topic for almost 3 decades. While our contributions have been mostly research on PE, we’ve always had an interest in translating research-based knowledge into practice. What an amazing opportunity EvalParticipativa provides in this regard! But perhaps even more compelling is the reverse; what a fabulous opportunity to turn expert practice into research! Lessons learned will surly advance evaluation theory and practice.

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Dear Evalparticipativa colleagues and friends, We hope this post finds you well and that you are finding ways of overcoming the difficulties caused by COVID-19.

We are really pleased and thankful that our invitation for ‘meaningful lessons’ in Participatory Evaluation continues to receive responses. Today, we would like to share a valuable experience from Joaquín Navas, Ricardo Ramírez and Mariana López-Fernández from the initiative, DECI. We would like to remind you that the invitation remains open and we would love to receive and share your meaningful lessons. All the best!

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By Osvaldo Néstor Feinstein

Participatory Evaluation (PE) gives voice to stakeholder perspectives on policy, programme or project processes and results in order to limit or avoid technocratic bias. Furthermore, it promotes ownership of the evaluative process and results which makes the evaluation more widely accepted. These are two of the arguments in support of PE.

On the other hand, PE has been criticised by the argument that it is not a rigorous approach due to its qualitative methods which capture “impressions” and anecdotes but do not provide rigorous quantitative procedures. Sometimes random control trials (RCTs) are used as an example of rigour in evaluation.

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More significant learning from Participatory Evaluation. This time from the Costa Rican Caribbean.

Many valuable contributions have been made in the ongoing debate around Participatory Evaluation in times of COVID 19, and today we would like to share another contribution on meaningful lessons ‘in’ and ‘from’ Participatory Evaluation.

This time, we would like to take an example from Costa Rica and listen to Karla Salazar Sánchez, a social researcher and participatory evaluation facilitator. Remember, the invitation to participate remains open and we are interested in hearing from voices on the ground; those who have practice-based knowledge. All contributions are welcome. The many journeys made and times of stumbling and of getting back up; the great discoveries and joys can be made accessible to everyone if you share them with a brief post in this community.

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The year 2020 will turn, without a doubt, into a watershed year for multiple and diverse realities. While we are still in the middle of the pandemic, in contexts characterised by huge incertainties, it is a good moment to reflect on the reality of evaluation in general and participatory evaluation in particular, especially in this long and extended moment that we are living through. This reflection often goes hand in hand with the (re)planning of activities and objectives that have been disrupted and troubled by lockdowns, illness and financial crisis.

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