Let’s talk about participatory tools! Featured material available at EvalParticipativa

by Esteban Tapella

Those of us who have facilitated participatory processes, have at some point wondered what we need to do to achieve the highest degree of involvement possible, from as many stakeholders as possible, in the activities that we plan. One of the many challenges that surface when carrying out participatory evaluation is how to create spaces for real participation where multiple stakeholders can be true protagonists in the evaluation agenda. We know that this is not achieved only by understanding in depth participatory evaluation and the methodological steps, it is also necessary to identify and be able to handle appropriate tools for each social and cultural context where the evaluation is carried out.

The use of participatory tools is increasingly valued in the field of evaluation whether to analyse the reality, facilitate communication, build shared viewpoints, stimulate creativity, facilitate decision making or even decrease the volume of some voices in order to make space for quieter voices.

A person does not become a mechanic only because they receive a set of screwdrivers. And yet, even the most experienced mechanics cannot do their job properly without them. Participatory evaluation tools can only fulfill their purpose when we have an in-depth understanding of what it means to incorporate social participation.

The tools used are not what make the difference, but rather the open and respectful attitude that supports an evaluation process. This participatory conception of an evaluation assumes that everyone involved in an intervention has the right and possibility, even if at times they require specific training, to be protagonists in evaluating the programme or project they have been involved in. With this methodological conception in mind, the use of participatory tools should be understood as a way to break down inhibitions and fears among participants so that a diversity of opinions can be captured in the most faithful way possible for each intervention wherever possible.

Whatever tools or instruments we use under this methodological conception, the evaluation should allow us to:

      • share one’s personal knowledge on the intervention, enrich it and boost collective knowledge concerning it;
      • develop reflection on a shared point, in which participants contribute their particular experiences, broadening collective experience; and
      • construct potential recommendations or solutions together for the problems identified, enabling everyone to participate in its design.

In this joint effort, different perceptions are shared on topics of interest from the intervention and on the assessment of its processes, results and impacts. It also hopes that the people involved take ownership of the methods and tools as well as the logic of the process so that the experience can be multiplied in their groups and communities. This converts the methodology into a process of empowerment for the different social actors involved and their organisations.

Today we have a valuable set of tools at our disposal, although we do not always know how to use them. And while there seems to be an instrument for every potential situation or purpose; we will, however, need to keep recreating them or designing new tools that are specifically tailored to new contexts. In this short article note we would like to introduce you to some of the most outstanding materials in our toolbox, which contains more than fifty guides and manuals on the subject.

80 TOOLS FOR PARTICIPATORY DEVELOPMENT. This document provides a set of tools to facilitate participatory processes, presented in a simple format with accessible language, easy to understand. In the style of a toolkit, it provides a wide variety of elements which can be used in group sessions, diagnostics, and participatory planning, monitoring and evaluation.

TOOLBOX (ONG-IDEAS) FOR PARTICIPATORY MONITORING OF EFFECTS AND IMPACTS. This document (only in Spanish) is the result of applying the ONG-IDEAs ToolKit to the Latin America context and experiences. It uses concrete examples and concepts to show how the monitoring approach can be applied to strengthen the focus on effects and impacts and the participatory management focus.

PARTICIPATORY TOOL MANUAL. This manual (only in Spanish) brings together a set of participatory techniques and group activities applied and validated by the technical team and by the intervention communities of Proyecto JALDA (Bolivia). These techniques rely on the active participation of the communities involved. As far as possible, their actions are planned and carried out respecting the comprehensive and sustainable management of natural resources.

PARTICIPATORY TOOLS FOR POPULAR EDUCATION (VOLUME I and VOLUME II). This dynamic book (only in Spanish) reflects a set of techniques conceived in the Latin American context which can be applied in popular education projects. They promote the idea that participants should own, transform and improve their realities. Thus, it seeks to contribute to finding new alternative educational models to vertical education.

The second volume of the edition presents structural, economic, political and ideological analysis techniques in a clear and practical way for sociocultural activity coordinators.

TOOLKIT ON GENDER SENSITIVE PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION METHODS. This toolkit is based on the experience of using participatory tools in an evaluation context. It focuses on the feminist ethos of listening to women’s voices and analysing the relationships of power within their lives. This set of tools allows us to conduct body mapping and resource mapping.

IMAGE-BASED MONITORING AND EVALUATION. TOOLS FOR LEARNING AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT. This document (only in Spanish) is based on audiovisual language to provide evidence of changes. It does this mainly from the perspective of the project’s stakeholders, in this case the rural organisations and families. The text addresses the use of images in M&E and presents practical tools and guides for using media in adult education.

PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION: THEORIES + METHODS FOR REMOTE WORK. This guidebook identifies multiple resources for trends and innovations in participatory evaluation. It is unique in that it offers virtual adaptations of popular approaches to ideation, data collection and analysis, and action-taking for evaluators and human service organizations. This targeted research serves to support Evaluation + Learning Consulting’s upcoming webinar series on participatory evaluation with a special lens on remote adaptations.

TOOLS FOR DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION. The democratic school must move towards the involvement of the entire educational community in the development of learning activities and in community life. It is about appealing to active involvement, participation and reflection from an inclusive leadership. Hence, educating critical citizens assumes and legitimises the most universal globalising function of a pedagogical project based on democratic dialogue, egalitarian participation and commitment to social transformation. This book (only in Spanish) offers a series of techniques to be used in different phases: (1) making a first contact and negotiation of the demand, (2) dynamising the diagnosis and shared analysis, (3) action planning, (4) implementation and systematisation of the experience, and (5) evaluation and dissemination of the project.

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