In order to contribute to desired social transformations, civil society organisations require a system that enables them to, at the very least, monitor and evaluate their work. Monitoring and evaluation are foundational to our intervention strategies. We must, therefore, continually ask ourselves: what role does evaluation have in civil society organisations?, what type of evaluation is the most suitable and useful for these organisations?, what factors should we consider when evaluating work?
Those of us involved with TECHO have adhered to this Community of Practice and Learning and are EvalParticipativa partners. As protagonists in this organisation, and in line with our intention to contribute to reflections offered by other organisations, we have created the questions featured above. Today we would like to share our own reflection and conviction with regard to adopting a participatory evaluation system. The next seven points set out what we have learned.
Promoting the participation of vulnerable communities. An evaluation system allows us to integrate groups living in exploitative situations. These groups are usually excluded from parts of the diagnostic, design and evaluation processes in projects. For TECHO it is important to recognise their rights to participate and freedom of opinion while we build projects based on the community’s needs and strengths.
Improve TECHO’s working model and social action. For our organisation, the evaluation system allows us to prioritise the people and communities we are working with by placing them at the centre of our vision and work. This means adopting the following points.
Make projects more relevant, closer to the communities and their specific development contexts. As in the previous point, this is an opportunity to adapt the TECHO working model to the institution’s values and ways of working.
Gather lessons learned, standardise processes and improve strategies. An evaluation system allows us to see: (a) the level of quality in completed work, (b) the project stages, processes and impact; and (c) the strategic plans or ways to improve TECHO’s work in the region.
Bring communities closer to decision-making in projects. An evaluation system allows us to incorporate community criteria into TECHO work and tailor projects to each area and sociocultural context where social and community action is being carried out
Increase the efficiency of TECHO’s work and activities. The efficiency of a project is subject to the extent it is tailored to each area and specific sociocultural context. This is possible if a suitable evaluation system is used.
Maximise dialogue and community representation in TECHO projects. An evaluation system allows us to consolidate a working plan which incorporates social and community connection and relies on democratic, horizontal and continual communication among communities, their leaders and TECHO volunteers. This allows us to build trust and connections whilst developing working plans that can have greater impact during and following each project.
This represents not only the reason why TECHO adopts a participatory evaluation system but also its opportunity to do so. As our experience undoubtedly demonstrates, this helps us improve our intervention strategies as we increasingly integrate the communities’ perspectives and viewpoints. Moreover, the system is made more comprehensive as processes and working plans are strengthened and standardised on a regional level, increasing capacity in the communities and the institution itself.
We believe that these points can work alongside other civil society organisations’ working models and social action. We invite you to debate this idea, relating it to your organisation’s context and the Evaluation Standards for Latin America and the Caribbean.
María Jesús Silva Rozas | Coordinator Participatory Evaluation Team