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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DEVELOPING CAPACITY IN COLLABORATIVE EVALUATION AND COMMUNICATION. LESSONS AND CHALLENGES FROM THE DECI INITIATIVE

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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PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION AND RIGOUR

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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PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION IN TIMES OF COVID 19: POSSIBLE OR WISHFUL THINKING?

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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SOCIO-EDUCATIONAL FUNCTIONS AND STRATEGIES THAT COMMUNITY SPECIALISTS CAN USE IN PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION PROCESSES FOR COMMUNITY INITIATIVES

Dear EvalParticipativa friends and colleagues, we hope this post finds you all well!

A few days ago, we symbolically crossed over the big pond to meet Héctor Núñez who lives and works in Barcelona. Héctor has worked exclusively on themes related to Participatory Evaluation (EP) for a long time. In this post, we would like to share his professional profile with you as well as some of his academic work. We are convinced it will enrich the training and reflection that we have been doing around these topics in our community of practice and learning.

Héctor Núñez qualified as a social educator at the University of Santiago de Compostela. He is a pedagogue and holds a PhD in Education from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. His professional experience mainly centres on social pedagogy, non-government organisations and the public sector. Héctor has participated in different research and consultancy projects in Spain and beyond. He is currently professor in the Serra Húnter programme in the Department of the Theory and History of Education at the University of Barcelona.

The main reason we contacted Héctor was to learn about participatory evaluation processes in community initiatives. As we talked, Héctor told us that the working perspective is wider with regard to evaluation. It views the role of Participatory Evaluation as part of the social pedagogy discipline and as a professional strategy within social education. We realised that there were large crossovers between what he told us and the issues that arose in our debates on the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of PE in our Gathering in Ecuador (2019).

 

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LESSONS TAKEN FROM THE WORKING GROUP EXPERIENCE IN THE SANTA TERESA INFORMAL SETTLEMENT (TECHO-CHILE)

Dear friends, we are continuing to learn from each other and this time we will hear some thoughts from Fernanda Arriaza, TECHO member. This organisation works in 19 Latin American countries and seeks to overcome the poverty experienced by millions of people living in informal settlements through initiatives which unite the efforts of settlement dwellers and young volunteers.  In this post, you can read about the lessons they learnt in an experience that was recently documented as part of an initiative in and with the Working Group.

We would like to remind you that our invitation to share your meaningful lessons remains open and we would love to receive and share your them. Greetings!

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WHY IS PARTICIPATION IMPORTANT IN EVALUATION? LESSONS FROM AN EXPERIENCE IN MEXICO

A couple of months ago, we got in touch with Giovanna Montagner, follower of our community of practice, and invited her to share some of her thoughts on evaluation and participation.

She opted to share on the following initiative and writes together with the evaluation team. It is an adaptation of Outcome Harvesting, developed over two years and carried out in close collaboration with the programme’s staff. The evaluation process included telephone interviews to all the small agricultural producer leaders who were participants in the initiative, visits to a “sample” of the groups on the ground where interviews, observation and group activities were held. In addition, they carried out semi-structured interviews with the other programme participants (partner companies and NGOs). This all meant that they could seek to identify results from the perspective of the participants which was an innovative approach for the programme and which completed a pre-existing quantitative evaluation. Here are the lessons learnt from the experience.

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HAVE YOU ASKED YOURSELF WHAT YOUR ROLE IS AS FACILITATOR IN CHANGE PROCESSES THAT ARE DRIVEN BY OUR INITIATIVES?

Here we share a new experience in response to the invitation to share meaningful lessons from Participatory Evaluation. This time the reflection focuses on emotive lessons in participatory monitoring by Dagny Skarwan and her work at ONG – IDEAs. Here, she tells us in first person about her valuable lesson.

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For around three years, I was involved in coordinating the project ONG-IDEAs with German and Latin American colleagues in Central America as well as NGOs in Colombia and Mexico. It was an experience that made a lasting impression on me.

For me, learning how to guide NGOs and facilitator groups in Participatory Evaluation processes and advising them on how to use tools to create a culture of evaluation in their target groups has been a great learning experience. It has also involved growth that has been charged with intense emotions and memories.

Going beyond the formal monitoring proposals (such as creating transparency and accountability), the participatory monitoring focus that we have developed at ONG – IDEAs includes our proposal to generate processes that empower and provide moments of learning for all those involved, focusing on the perspectives, self evaluation and commitment of target groups.

ONG-IDEAs’ approach focuses on several tools that are able to generate information and enable analysis. They work when those who facilitate work together with those who are motivated and available to change their outlook, behaviour, attitudes and practices.It is important to clearly express what I want to change, what my objectives are, why I participate in the group or present an idea for a project.

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AND WE CARRY ON LEARNING… THIS TIME VISITING A PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION OF HEALTH SERVICES PROVIDED BY A LATIN AMERICAN NGO (ARGENTINA)

We are still receiving reflections and lessons from the invitation we launched a few days ago. This time, Olga Nirenberg, a colleague EvalParticipativa member through CEADEL, shares some of her thoughts with us on a participatory evaluation experience evaluating the health services of a Latin American NGO.

Remember that everyone can participate with their thoughts and lessons!

Prologue

Here I’m going to share an experience that at the time I found negative but which, looking back now, I think was a good lesson for me, the team and especially the women who participated in this “evaluation saga”.

I think that evaluation often clearly portrays differences in stakeholder perspectives and the importance of having their interests and influences mapped out. Furthermore, all stakeholders should always be fully involved. In other words, there should be a multi-stakeholder focus with clear decisions around which voices will be given priority.

The recommendation that arises from the experience that will be shared below touches on the ethical issues involved in participatory evaluation. This means that those of us who are evaluation professionals and who know about methodological issues, have the moral obligation to amplify the quietest voices and those that are not always heard, especially when it is claimed that these same people are the “recipients” of the initiative in question.

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