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).
During our discussions in Quito, we said that the most important thing in a participatory evaluation was that it aimed “to strengthen the organisations so that they had greater control over their own development”, “increase the capacity to reflect, analyse and propose solutions” and “empower local stakeholders so they can share new and different knowledge to feed into the design of public policies”, all aspects related to the type of social education that Héctor shared about.
For this reason, we felt it was relevant to share a review of his doctoral thesis and some of the works that have followed from it. (You can view the publications by clicking on any of the images. They will also be available in our repository shortly).
Héctor’s thesis is built on two main premises: (a) that the implication of diverse stakeholders in evaluation processes related to community initiatives is a highly accepted reality in the Anglo-Saxon world where foundations and public bodies who finance projects consider that evaluations based on the participation of all those involved can improve the quality of the evaluation results; and (b) it appears to be the case that community action organisations and their professionals should be trained as evaluators so they can carry out evaluation activity in the programmes that they develop with the two-fold objective of managing resources better and improving social and educational initiatives.
Departing from these two premises, the research follows the work of community workers who manage Community Development Plans in participatory evaluation processes for community action initiatives in Catalonia. It seeks to respond to a research gap as the international academic literature on PE processes focuses its attention on describing the roles and functions of evaluators. However, there are not many results on the functions and work strategies of the community organisation specialists in contexts where PE takes place. Guided by a pedagogical approach, the doctoral thesis questions the role of community specialists in order to discover what socio-educational functions and strategies are developed during the PE and if their activity facilitates or hinders this type of evaluation process.
The doctoral thesis was developed within the framework of a project which viewed the PE of community action as a learning methodology to promote individual and community empowerment. It is organised into five blocks of content: 1) theoretical analysis; 2) empirical development; 3) research results; 4) conclusions and 5) suggestions for ways to improve future research.
The theoretical analysis of the research deals with three themes: 1) community action as socio-educational strategy; 2) PE as a socio-educational strategy in community action; and 3) professionals within the community action context and in PE.
The empirical development of the research is based on the case study methodology: it consists of fieldwork lasting sixteen months with the following objectives: (1) describe a PE process related to community action in a specific community, and (2) identify, describe and analyse the socio-educational functions and strategies which the community specialist carries out to facilitate the PE process. A set of data collection techniques and instruments are used including (a) documentary analysis, (b) participant observation, and (c) semi-structured interviews with various key stakeholders implicated in PE.
During the research, information is also analysed for another two PE processes for community action initiatives developed alongside the case study and which can be interpreted as contrast cases. The researcher participates in some of the evaluation activities taking field notes and interviewing the community specialists who facilitate these other two participatory evaluations.
The third section is comprised of the research results of the doctoral thesis. Firstly, as a result of the theoretical analysis, it presents a set of evidence and dimensions for PE in community action. This set is interpreted as a guide for methodological support for social stakeholders and professionals working in community contexts who seek to evaluate projects and activities following the theoretical and methodological principles of PE.
The second research result is the identification and description of the five phases used to organise a PE for community action initiatives. The third research result presents the socio-educational functions and strategies carried out by community specialists. This includes both general ones in community action and specific ones that facilitate PE.
The conclusions section considers that the community specialists, implicated in evaluator processes as non-evaluators, deploy a set of socio-educational strategies that are (1) organisational, (2) relational and (3) technical which facilitate the PE process, as professional community stakeholders support the evaluators during (a) the initial dissemination of the PE in the community; (b) the negotiation of meanings in the evaluation within the steering group who lead the process; (c) the evaluation’s technical follow-up; (d) the accompanying of evaluation activities of the steering group, and (e) the final dissemination of results of the PE to the rest of the community.
The fifth and final section of content in the doctoral thesis suggests some research lines that could be further explored; for example: 1) define the specific characteristics of each of the evaluation approaches focusing on participation; 2) identify and analyse the negotiation processes in the Participatory Evaluations; and 3) analyse the methodology of the PE processes.
We deeply appreciate Héctor’s availability and willingness to tell us about his research as well as his generosity in sharing these publications with our community of practice. Without a doubt, it’s a contribution that is more than meaningful to continue learning about the topic. Greetings to all!
Esteban Tapella I Team Coordinator for EvalParticipativa.