LEARNING AS A COMPASS FOR PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION

The sun decided to shine brightly, expressing its desire to participate in today’s activities. And so we began the second day in the hotel gardens. We summarised and reassessed the first day’s sessions with an evaluation which went beyond the scope of being a fun activity to enable us to reaffirm that learning is always better when done as a group.

The first part of the morning consisted in presenting three experiences which had the common theme of learning as a tool for collective empowerment.

– The presentation “Critical reflections: participatory monitoring for self efficiency, ONG-IDEAs in 11 countries of Central America and the Andean Region” explained how processes which focus on evaluation are also of political interest. This is due to the fact that help is always impacting, not only in terms of transferring resources but also in terms of what it means for development. This challenge becomes possible through capacity building in facilitators, consultancy and support for application and analysis in the NGO and community groups.

This is also the basis for one of ONG-IDEAs specific aims: strengthen target groups to analyse their potential and needs in planning, monitoring and management in the change process so they can exercise their rights. In turn, it proposes the need to find a balance in the monitoring stage of projects which is not just about accountability to donors, but that is also helpful for managing knowledge on generating learning and leadership. In this way, it will be possible to foster participation and in doing so, use these projects to empower and strengthen groups involved in making decisions and taking on relevant responsibilities.

– The presentation “Strengthening Generational Handover Junin Cooperatives, Peru, focused on organisational and economic sustainability” generated a kind of philosophical dilemma similar to the Which came first? The chicken or the egg? scenario. The shared experience led the participants to ask themselves what the main differences were between Participatory Evaluation and Systematisation. This was because the experience was based on systematisation and not evaluation. In fact, this is one of the facilitator’s challenges: delving deeper. This experience carried out criteria-based analysis and proposed the inclusion of participation. They proposed planning, organisation, monitoring and project action management which encouraged communication, decision-making and relevant organisational structures. Likewise, it was suggested that sustainability is the result of meeting basic conditions which ensure that results can be long lasting.

– The final experience shared was the “Diagnostic Update for the Human Rights Situation and Human Rights Programme, Mexico City” which summarised all experiences with one aim: participation as a human right. In this sense, they proposed the need to revise project designs and make adjustments and reformulations. In this particular experience, the initial programme needed updating to make it more inclusive, progressive and multidisciplinary. In turn, to make this possible, broad participation of civil society organisations, academic institutions and public entities needed to be guaranteed.

Plenary session: the importance of building knowledge together

During the first two days, there were Pauses to offload. Far from referring to heavy loads on our shoulders impeding movement, this activity consisted in the participants leaving footsteps in the debate on the main difficulties/limitations, advantages and contributions, key lessons learned and challenges in Participatory Evaluation. These were considered the main central themes from the first half of the gathering.

In reference to the difficulties/limitations of PE, everyone agreed that, at a basic level, all limitations in this evaluation type share the same nuances. This goes beyond pressures on time, resources and knowledge. These factors, viewed from the PE perspective, have a distinguishing feature. For example, the role of the participants changes to become knowledge builders and in turn, a kind of co-evaluator. Likewise, the evaluator also takes on various roles which go from encouraging positive elements to creating proposal-making moments.

In this sense, diversity is not only seen in the versatile abilities of the evaluator, but also contributes to the diversity of objectives which can lead to potential conflicts of interest which also has an effect on building legitimacy for PE and its validation for various stakeholders.

In order to achieve this legitimacy, ownership of PE is required through the active participation of those involved beginning in the process design. At this point, the advantages and contributions of PE were presented. The stakeholders involved not only participated in the data collection stage but also in defining the objectives. Here we can take away one of the key points of PE: horizontal dialogue between those who are involved and who promote citizenship in order that lessons can be scaled up in a process which promotes empowerment, the much desired ownership and an evaluative culture which does not claim to be utopian.

Some lessons were also learned from these advantages which are unique to PE. These included the role of the facilitator as a driving force and creator of synergies; the need for not only the evaluator to display these flexible attitudes and skills but also the activity design which should take into account that the contexts are as diverse as the participants involved.

The last three points led to the challenges posed by PE which included: resolving conflicts of interest involved in developing an evaluation with multiple stakeholders; giving voice to local stakeholders and reflecting them practically in PE; continual learning; and the need to cement and promote a self identity for PE so that it is adopted and replicated.

Finally, the day ended as promised: with a reflection on the main characteristics of PE and the role of the evaluator. The activity “The Participatory Evaluation Playing Card” was used for more purposes than just to highlight the card game abilities of some of the participants: it was used to build a conceptual-referential PE framework from Latin America.

Unfortunately we are not able to share what was agreed in this plenary, but in a not-too-distant future you will be able to view it in the PE manual created by this community of learning and practice, EvalParticipativa.

We do not want to give away any spoilers about what is going to happen tomorrow at the gathering but you can be sure that we will all participate!

Here is a new photo gallery to show you what we have been doing today. Greetings and we will see you again soon!

 

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