EVALPARTICIPATIVA’S CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
The Benjamin Franklin quote that we have used as the title is perhaps the best way to introduce this post, in which we wish to share some of EvalParticipativa’s recent experiences as part of its capacity development strategy in the region. Our contribution to capacity strengthening in Participatory Evaluation (PE) has made use of both online and face-to-face formats, and has focused on specific personal and organisational contexts.
The aim of these capacity development sessions was to ensure that participants were familiar with conceptual and methodological features of PE, based on participants’ own experiences and the contents of the “Sowing & Harvesting” handbook. Didactic tools and documentary videos prepared specifically for each context were combined so that participants could:
- develop their knowledge, skills and capacities concerning the aims, steps and critical moments involved in this kind of evaluation;
- acquire an initial understanding of how to implement a participatory approach and facilitate inclusive processes; and
- gain a basic understanding of how to use the methodology, both to improve their own evaluation practice and to contribute to development processes across the region.
In this post, we share an account of three capacity development workshops, held in late July and early August in Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica. These training experiences were organised and facilitated jointly with local teams drawn from different academic and social organisations. Around sixty people were trained in three countries. This account speaks of the joint efforts and lessons learnt, of networking and synergy, of real-life challenges that were overcome, and of hopes about the possibility of constructing a Latin American society that is more just and inclusive and where, one day, nobody will be left behind.
1. CAPACITy development workshop IN THE HEART OF THE WHITE CITY: POPAYÁN, COLOMBIA
The face-to-face capacity development workshop in Colombia was held at the University of Cauca and was organised together with the ECoS-CTeİ initiative. The aim of this participatory action-research project is to facilitate the joint efforts of members of the Science, Technology and Innovation community in the department of Cauca. The project provides support to social and productive sectors, enabling them to use scientific and technological knowledge to resolve specific problems, seize opportunities and, in the long term, create a sustainable development model together, using open innovation.
The ECoS-CTeİ project, EvalParticipativa’s key partner for this capacity development workshop, works in three specific sectors: specialist coffee production, agritourism and ICT for development. Its intervention strategy involves coordinated actions with actors from academia, national government, the productive sector and civil society. Participants in the training workshop included representatives from social, small farmer and productive organisations and from bodies working in research and employability training, all connected with projects developed in collaboration with ECoS-CTeİ. The workshop was co-facilitated by Esteban Tapella from the National University of San Juan’s PETAS team and Carmen Lucía Jaramillo from the University of Cauca.
The pedagogical approach, which was designed together with the ECoS-CTeİ project, sought to ensure participants understood conceptual and methodological features of PE, to enable them to evaluate ongoing initiatives together with a range of actors with whom they work. One of the aspects that was most valued by the participating organisations was the versatility of the PE tools and techniques, which they felt could easily be adapted to their own contexts, enhancing their work. As a result of this capacity development workshop, they suggested sharing any experiences that might emerge as they put the lessons learnt during the course into practice, as well as any tools that they adapt or create using PE principles and methodology.
The final evaluation of the workshop was highly positive. Here, we share some of the feedback received: “I felt like I properly understood each of the topics, enabling me to own the concepts. I felt free to express myself, participate and share my opinions and knowledge with others”; “I found the methodology flexible and appropriate for stimulating the different sectors with which we work”; “I really value all the content that was shared and the way we worked. Everything is applicable to my work: the method, the tools and the way to facilitate a different kind of evaluation”; “This has been one of the best training workshops that I have attended, full of relevant content for the work that I do within my organisation”; “I have taken the content and methodology on board – I see it as valuable and relevant to the Cauca region and I am going to treat everything I have learnt as a guide for improving work in my community”.
The participants also commented on the readability of the Sowing & Harvesting handbook, which they used during the group activities, along with other resources available on the EvalParticipativa website. They went away highly motivated to form part of our community of practice and learning. The following video, produced by the ECoS-CTeİ communication team, provides an overview of the workshop.
2. FROM THE LAND OF “PURE LIFE”: A TRAINING WORKSHOP IN SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA
This capacity development workshop was held in the Continuing Education building at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and was organised in collaboration with the inter-university capacity development subcommittee of the National Council of Rectors (CONARE).
The training workshop drew high levels of commitment from a broad range of participants from various Costa Rican entities, the majority of which are linked to university and community development outreach projects at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC), the State University of Distance Education (ENED), the National Technical University (UTN), the Research and Training Center for Public Administration (CICAP) and facilitators from Focelac+. Teaching staff and students from the UCR’s Masters in Evaluation also participated actively in the process, enhancing the event with their contributions and suggestions.
One of the practical experiences analysed in the workshop was the participatory evaluation of the Mi Pasaje (“My Journey”) programme implemented by Evalúa Jalisco. On the second day, an inspiring live virtual exchange was organised with the Evalúa Jalisco team. The participants found both the contents and the design of the workshop very valuable, as it enabled the collective construction of concepts, ownership of the new tools, and an understanding of the principles and objectives of PE.
One of the participants indicated that “[…] the Evalúa-UCR initiative, made up of various bodies at the UCR involved in university management, wishes to improve its evaluation practices and foster a culture of evaluation throughout UCR. While evaluation practices already exist in the institution, we want to go further and widen our approaches and methodologies. PE interests us because it makes it possible to mainstream evaluation in administrative areas —linked to the projects and services that the university offers society, to the provision of capacity strengthening and professional training, and to the evaluations provided by other parts of the UCR”.
Pablo Rodríguez-Bilella (from the PETAS team at the National University of San Juan) facilitated this experience, together with Emanuel Blanca (member of the Focelac+ office in Costa Rica) and Raquel Herrera, a young and emerging Costa Rican evaluator who joined the EvalParticipativa capacity development team shortly before this activity. After the workshop, the facilitators held a meeting with members of the Evalúa-UCR initiative, made up of UCR academic departments and whose role is to promote and consolidate an institutional evaluation culture.
Finally, Pablo Rodríguez Bilella made a public presentation at CICAP on “Principles of PE in Latin America. Exploring its potential for university projects”.
3. CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT TRAINING FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD: ECUADOR
This virtual training workshop was organised in Ecuador with the aim of introducing the principal conceptual and methodological aspects of PE.
The workshop was designed and implemented jointly with Grupo Faro, an independent research and action centre that works on topics of democracy, research and evaluation, sustainable development and education. It produces evidence for the implementation of initiatives that seek to impact public policy in ways intended to promote an equitable and sustainable society. The training workshop was facilitated by Jutta Blauert from DEval (Germany), and Emanuel Blanca and Raquel Herrera of the Focelac+ team in Costa Rica.
Participants came from different regions of the country and a range of civil society organisations, and also included evaluation managers from the Ecuadorian public sector including the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, the Ecuadorian Evaluation Society, the Fundación Esquel, the Fundación Ecuatoriana Equidad, HIAS Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Populorum Progressio Fund (FEPP) and Grupo FARO. Methods used included presentations of concepts, group work and videos on the experiences of evaluator-facilitators and PE case studies in Latin America, for example, on a PE developed by a subnational government in Jalisco, Mexico.
Participants in the training workshop recognised the expertise of the workshop facilitators, emphasizing the way they shared relevant concepts, tools and methodologies that were, above all, tailored to the realities of the country and to the different types of actors involved, including public officials and civil society organisations. “The material shared covered a range of topics and the methodology was dynamic, including the presentation of concepts, videos and group activities. What we most appreciated was the fact that these were continually adapted to the participants’ interests as the sessions advanced and new concerns arose“. The images show moments captured from this virtual training workshop.
During the four sessions of the course, participants shared their experiences and questions. Of particular interest were the topics dealing with the adaptation of processes and language and tools for working with indigenous communities. The event played an important role in identifying the motivations of participants, which – according to their particular contexts of strategic action – arose in each session as topics were dealt with in greater depth. One of the participants mentioned that “From the perspective of Sustainable Development and Cities, PE is extremely important to risk management and climate change, as this is required in each and every area of action, especially if we want to have public policies that allow us to understand reality and that are constructed with and for the people. In other words: public policy with governance”.