It is with great joy that we share the news of the launch of a new resource in our community of practice and learning EvalParticipativa, aimed at accompanying and illustrating the Sowing and Harvesting, participatory evaluation handbook .

This is a set of five short videos, one for each core chapter of the manual, done in Whiteboard-animation format.

The Whiteboard-animation format (or whiteboard animation) has gained popularity as a form of communication and distance training. The logic of this tool is to tell an illustrated story, simulating that it unfolds and develops on a blackboard. The animations are accompanied by a scripted narration with the purpose of explaining, in an entertaining and simple way, concepts that, explained in another way, would not be easy to grasp in a few minutes.

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A methodology that fosters a participatory approach

Lessons from using a Theory of Change in a Participatory Evaluation

by Viola Cassetti and Joan J. Paredes-Carbonell

Our professional paths crossed in Valencia in 2016, when Viola was finishing her European Master in Public Health (EuroPubHealth) and about to start her PhD at the University of Sheffield (UK) and Joan was working as Deputy Director General of Health Promotion at the Valencia regional health authority.

Our first project was to adapt the NICE guidelines on community involvement to the Spanish context using a collaborative approach. We spent two years co-coordinating a group of more than 80 professionals who actively participated in the project. You can acess the guide (only in Spanish) by cliking on it (Cassetti et al., 2018).

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by Jorge Chavez-Tafur

The term “experience capitalisation” is increasingly used to refer to the process of describing and analysing a project, programme or specific experience in detail, and producing lessons that can be shared and used to improve development interventions.

As in a systematisation process, this approach is believed to help identify specific innovations and practices, and -above all- to understand the reasons behind their successes or failures. One of the major benefits of an experience capitalisation process is that it involves all those who are -or were- part of the experience.

But how do we promote such a process, and what are the steps to be followed? And once we have decided to go ahead, how do we facilitate the participation of different people? These were some of the questions that we asked ourselves at the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) about five years ago, prompting us to initiate a project together with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Financial support was provided by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). From 2016 to the end of 2019, the project responded to the need to develop specific skills for describing and analysing specific experiences, identifying and disseminating lessons and recommendations, and putting these to use. Working in different parts of the world and focusing on analysing the steps that should be taken in processes of this kind, the project sought to encourage the adoption of a capitalisation process at different levels. To this end, we sought to capitalise on the experience we had embarked upon, to learn lessons about the process itself and to validate the approach followed.

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by Carmen Lucía Jaramillo

Creating spaces where -regardless of their levels of education- people feel they can truly participate in planning and evaluation processes, in an informed and active way, has been a principal methodological concern during my work with communities, particularly in rural areas.

Beyond discourses on empowerment, horizontal relationships and recognition of the value of the knowledge and experience of local actors, it is always challenging to combine the demands of methodological rigour (structures, formats and technical language) and the need for fluent communication with protagonists in the transformation of the challenging realities they face in their territories. Generally speaking, structural socio-economic problems and indifference on the part of those in power are standard features in such environments. That is why it is always a challenge to “[…] create a space for debate, that is, a truly respectful space. Not the simple tolerance derived from indifference and scepticism, but a positive appreciation of differences” (Zuleta, 1985).

For this reason, in this continual pursuit of in-depth analysis and debate based on the use of simple language, I often opt for methods rooted in analogies that are familiar to the contexts and daily lives of the people with whom I carry out participatory planning or evaluation. One of the analogies that I have been able to adapt to multiple situations is that of a journey in a chiva, a form of transport used in rural Colombia to carry both passengers and goods. The image of the chiva is also very useful, because each one is a unique representation of what its owners want to say about their region. This is why they are covered in colourful images as a hallmark of pride and identity.

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Knowledge and social representations in Participatory Evaluation

by Sergio Martinic

Participatory Evaluation experiences value and validate the interpretations of participants concerning the projects, policies and interventions that are being analysed (Fetterman, 2005). These experiences create space for participants to share their knowledge and particular ways of looking at the real-life situations and problems that the interventions under evaluation are seeking to address (Gil & Heras, 2010; Menéndez, Torralbo & Luque, 2021; Paño, Rébola, & Suarez, 2019).

This constitutes one of the principal contributions of this evaluative approach: knowing and understanding the actions from the point of view of the other allows for a deeper and more realistic examination of the results and impacts of the programme or action under evaluation.

The integration of participant perspectives brings with it significant conceptual and methodological challenges. This article argues that the opinions of participants should be analysed on the understanding that they are part of broader social representations of the culture to which the subjects belong. From a methodological point of view, qualitative data and discourse analysis strategies are good tools for analysing interpretations and knowledge expressed during a participatory process. Continue reading

Integrative evaluation and participatory evaluation

by Osvaldo Néstor Feinstein

“Integrative Evaluation” (IE) is an approach that mitigates polarising discourse by integrating various seemingly contradictory perspectives and/or hypotheses. Participatory evaluation (PE) allows for the incorporation of the population’s perspectives on the processes and results of policies, programmes and/or projects, limiting or avoiding technocratic bias.

Evaluations are affected by perspective both in terms of the questions posed and the answers obtained. As populations are heterogeneous, it is very likely that they will contain a range of perspectives, which may also differ from those of experts. How should this type of situation be handled?

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Applying inclusive rigour to participatory evaluation

by Marina Apgar

While celebrating a greater openness toward participatory evaluation (PE), many evaluators continue to adhere to traditional ways of understanding “rigour”. Within these frameworks, quality standards are based on the supposed existence of a methodological hierarchy, in which objective and quantitative methods are placed higher than others, considered to be less “rigorous”.

These traditional approaches to rigour are manifested in evaluation designs that select one central method —which may be quantitative or qualitative— and add other less important methods if required, creating a mixed methods approach. If we follow this approach, our role as evaluators is to faithfully and strictly apply a protocol based on the standards established by our central methodology. In this context, participatory methods are considered to be weak, lacking in rigour and prone to bias. The only way to overcome their perceived weakness is to add “objective” methods to increase the “rigour” of the participatory design and so minimise its bias.

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Dear colleagues and friends of EvalParticipativa: after a little over a year of work, we are delighted to officially launch and share with you the documentary series, SOWING &  HARVESTING, an accompaniment to the participatory evaluation handbook of the same name.

Its five episodes, based on experiences from Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile, aim to illustrate the lessons learned from participatory monitoring and evaluation practices developed by different organisations in Latin America. To do this, we have selected emblematic and noteworthy cases from the region to illustrate their different nuances, levels of participation, processes and the participatory tools they use.

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Evaluating with rights-holders. Lessons from the Updated Human Rights Appraisal in Mexico City

by Marcia Itzel Checa

It is increasingly common to hear of participatory evaluations that give leading roles to a large range of actors affected by a particular intervention. This allows evaluations to be carried out using a more comprehensive vision, one that recovers the different perspectives involved.

Likewise, Mexico City’s Human Rights Appraisal and the Human Rights Programme associated with it are one of a kind, for the following reasons: the broad participation of multiple political and social actors in the elaboration, execution, monitoring and evaluation stages; its institutional design, which has matured over time and has, indeed, been incorporated into the city’s new constitution; and the fact that, despite its ups and downs, it has survived three periods of municipal government.

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The Benjamin Franklin quote that we have used as the title is perhaps the best way to introduce this post, in which we wish to share some of EvalParticipativa’s recent experiences as part of its capacity development strategy in the region. Our contribution to capacity strengthening in Participatory Evaluation (PE) has made use of both online and face-to-face formats, and has focused on specific personal and organisational contexts.

The aim of these capacity development sessions was to ensure that participants were familiar with conceptual and methodological features of PE, based on participants’ own experiences and the contents of the “Sowing & Harvesting” handbook. Didactic tools and documentary videos prepared specifically for each context were combined so that participants could:

      • develop their knowledge, skills and capacities concerning the aims, steps and critical moments involved in this kind of evaluation;
      • acquire an initial understanding of how to implement a participatory approach and facilitate inclusive processes; and
      • gain a basic understanding of how to use the methodology, both to improve their own evaluation practice and to contribute to development processes across the region.

In this post, we share an account of three capacity development workshops, held in late July and early August in Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica. These training experiences were organised and facilitated jointly with local teams drawn from different academic and social organisations. Around sixty people were trained in three countries. This account speaks of the joint efforts and lessons learnt, of networking and synergy, of real-life challenges that were overcome, and of hopes about the possibility of constructing a Latin American society that is more just and inclusive and where, one day, nobody will be left behind.

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