PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION INSIDE THE TREASURE CHEST

The third day began with a “treasure” hunt! But instead of searching for golden coins, the participants were let loose in the large hotel patios to find elements which make the participatory evaluation process more rigorous and legitimate.

In two groups, the participants looked for cards which featured steps involved in the traditional evaluation process but which also evoke basic aspects of PE. This led to a conversation about the sought-after rigorousness involved in: identifying stakeholders, formulating objectives and questions to gather information, creating working plans, gathering information, analysis and reporting as well as improvement measures.

This activity kicked off the day’s topic which was “the how of evaluationi.e., the methodological process. In line with this, we talked about how to achieve legitimacy and ownership of the approach through a methodological framework which shares features with other types of evaluations. With flexibility as the rallying cry, we spoke about the future of the logical approach which proposes action instruments. To do this, it was necessary to emphasise the need to identify the stakeholders and in doing so, define the rules of the game in terms of power: its asymmetries and the possibility of working in a horizontal manner.At the same time, the importance of revisiting steps was emphasised as it can be difficult to identify all the stakeholders at early stages of an intervention. For this reason, it is important to advance as far as necessary in objectives in this evaluation process so that the evaluation is not closed off to more stakeholders. Here, the need for balance in participation moments becomes essential as action is defined by and in the process.

At the same time, the importance of revisiting steps was emphasised as it can be difficult to identify all the stakeholders at early stages of an intervention. For this reason, it is important to advance as far as necessary in objectives in this evaluation process so that the evaluation is not closed off to more stakeholders. Here, the need for balance in participation moments becomes essential as action is defined by and in the process.

In terms of the stakeholders, we discussed how PE had the special feature of increasing the plurality of voices, diversifying and focus on their interests, examining the whys and for whoms. This multiplies and broadens its potential at the same time that the methodological rigor awards it more legitimacy than traditional methods which also do not solve the challenges confronted by PE. Basically this is because PE is defined by the fact that it “involves everyone”.

At the same time, there is the issue of approaching each part of the process (identifying the stakeholders, describing the projects, formulating the questions, specifying indicators, identifying information sources, selecting instruments for data collection) in such a way that it is participatory and therefore affects the distribution of power among the diversity of stakeholders involved in the process

Once they found the route to the Participatory Evaluation treasure, the gathering was invaded by the Trade Union of Working Ants, the Programme of the United Ants for Development and the Cicadas. Far from being intrusive plagues, these were fictitious cases to recreate situations which can surface in evaluative realities. For this, the different groups had to create an evaluation matrix which went beyond the methodological framework and which gave tips and advice on what, how and where to focus attention. As required by PE, this was in agreement with the Theory of Intervention, Change Model proposals and the Results Chain. As this photo shows, the various stakeholders can consider the evaluated object together. In the second part of the day, we talked about identifying information sources and designing suitable tools for information gathering. This becomes more participatory as more local stakeholders get involved in decision-making and design which may broach different time periods. In general, these are rooted in participatory ways characteristic of PE which invest time in capacity building and building instruments for data collection. This step is essential for the process to have the methodological rigor necessary especially because the stakeholders involved (who in other evaluations are mainly passive) become active participants who have been part of previous capacity building processes.

The next step we discussed was the systematisation of information and reporting. This point highlighted one of the difficulties in PE. Whilst it is a fairly brief process, it is not 100% participatory. This is essentially because reporting is a highly complex activity which must be conducted completely and to an adequate standard. Doing this collectively would be a monumental task. As a suggestion, the possibility was discussed of drafting the report and sharing it with the rest of the stakeholders before coming to an agreement together. It was also noted that this was not the only difficulty. It was also difficult to give recommendations which would lead to change in a participatory way that truly engages all participants.As we were halfway through our gathering, it was necessary at this point to conduct a partial evaluation. Therefore, the day ended with a quick-fire round of opinions by participants regarding the First Gathering of Participatory Evaluation Experiences developed in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. So far, the gathering has been positively valued by the participants, as seen in the dynamic exchange of experiences; activities; the collective task of building knowledge; and the lessons learned both from the experiences and coordinator contributions.

As we were halfway through our gathering, it was necessary at this point to conduct a partial evaluation. Therefore, the day ended with a quick-fire round of opinions by participants regarding the First Gathering of Participatory Evaluation Experiences developed in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. So far, the gathering has been positively valued by the participants, as seen in the dynamic exchange of experiences; activities; the collective task of building knowledge; and the lessons learned both from the experiences and coordinator contributions.

See you tomorrow! We will be focusing on the role of facilitators in participatory evaluation. Here is a photo gallery of today’s activities.

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