Making Every Voice a Protagonist

Conventional evaluations have got us used to the users or beneficiaries of the programs and public policies becoming involved only as key informants. In a participatory evaluation the parties involved are the protagonists of the whole process. They define who will participate, what will be evaluated and when, what data collection and analysis methods will be used and how the results will be communicated.

Karla Zalazar, who has vast experience in facilitating participatory processes, points out that it is essential to foreground multiple stakeholders throughout the process. “If we are going to talk about participatory evaluation, we have to recognise the necessity of creating spaces for true participation, where every voice and perspective is taken into account. This implies being in close contact with the communities, with the different stakeholders and their views, and not just asking questions”, says the Costa Rican social facilitator.

Karla Salazar is a psychologist with a Master’s in Criminology and a Master’s in Political Science. She currently works as an academic coordinator and researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Costa Rica Headquarters). She is a lecturer and an independent consultant in the fields of research and evaluation. Her career has been characterised by the direct contact with communities, social organizations and people living with multiple vulnerabilities based on gender, violence and social exclusion, and therein lies her passion for the active participation of people in building knowledge and evidence.

SYSTEMATISATION OF EXPERIENCES AND EVALUATION: SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the systematisation of experiences approach is widely known[1]. In some fields, such as popular education, it is even better known than evaluation. We ask ourselves, what differences and similarities are there between evaluation and systematisation of experiences? Is it possible to identify common aspects between systematisation and some types of evaluation?

At EvalParticipativa we wish to open the debate and for that we have invited Oscar Jara Holliday, one of the most renowned figures in the field, to kick it off.

The Context

According to specialised literature, systematisation of experiences aims at establishing learning as an essential element of any intervention policy. And he does so by rising to the challenge of promoting, designing and conducting learning processes in experiences that were probably not conceived with that purpose in mind. But is the search for learning exclusive to systematisation? Are there similar purposes in the field of evaluation?

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A Bridge Between Community and Decision Making

In this video (with English subtitles), Matthias Casasco from TECHO Chile highlights the importance of participatory evaluation as a tool with the potential to provide a bridge between the locals’ voices and decision making.

He also points out how important it is to successfully generate spaces for reflection in the communities to discuss their problems and projects as well as community organising. The main goal of the participatory evaluation process, Matthias claims, is that local stakeholders take ownership of the process.

Matthias Casasco has a Master’s degree in Political Science from Sciences Po Rennes (France). He has specialised in housing and urban development policies. Matthias has been living in Santiago de Chile for nine years and is now in charge of the program for Housing Solutions at the TECHO-Chile foundation. In this capacity, he joins the communities of popular settlements on their journey to their right to adequate housing and connects them with the housing programs of the Chilean state. As a member of the EvalParticipativa community, he has worked on the design and implementation of a participatory evaluation pilot program in the Santa Teresa camp, on the outskirts of Santiago de Chile.

 

SOWING AND HARVEST. A Handbook for Participatory Evaluation

2020 will remain engraved on our memories as the year when the COVID-19 pandemic irrupted into our lives. We experienced on a global scale the depth of our connection and interdependency as well as how closely intertwined our realities are.

In such a context, we are very happy to present this handbook for participatory evaluation which was put together as our response from the field of evaluation. In the face of fragility and the limits of self-sufficiency, we intend to foreground the multitude of voices and experiences of the people involved in development processes.

This book is the result of joint work. It is at the same time sowing and harvest of multiple experiences and knowledge. Its pages mirror the collective thinking, feeling and learning of a great many colleagues who have been working on the subject in Latin America.

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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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ONLINE TRAINING ON PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION

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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WE NEVER STOP LEARNING! PRINCIPLES FROM FEMINIST PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION IN COLOMBIA

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!

THE EXPERIENCE

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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