by Maria José Garcia Oramas
The book ‘Experiencias en Evaluación Participativa’ (Participatory Evaluation Experiences, available only in Spanish) was published by the Veracruz Ministry of Education, Mexico, in 2009. It is a compilation of participatory evaluations carried out in community and educational settings carried out by diploma students at the Institute of Psychological Research, Veracruz.
Long-standing problems in education, health, environmental care, gender equality and inclusion continue to exist in 2023 and we remain obliged to seek creative ways of resolving inequalities of gender, ethnicity and class derived from patriarchal, racist and capitalist political systems that are still prevalent in our Latin American countries.
This book suggests that participatory evaluation can be a way of addressing these challenges by redefining learning methods to ensure they are appropriate to the context at hand and self-directed by the individuals involved. Learning is redefined as a collective form of knowledge construction that encompasses the experiences of all actors. It acts as an alternative way of evaluating educational processes and valuing the knowledge that emerges from the different learning contexts. These learning contexts, encompassing everyday and experiential knowledge, farmer and scientific knowledge, and even the feelings, thoughts and actions of individuals involved in the educational processes. Thus, wealth is drawn from each form of knowledge without esteeming one higher than another (Auge, 2017).
In contrast to external evaluations which are usually led by experts, participatory evaluation is a bottom-up approach. This multi-participant and dynamic process is based on an ethical commitment to the participants involved in these processes and is intended to collectively build fairer, more equal and inclusive societies.
Participatory evaluation seeks to replace an anti-evaluation culture with one that recognises evaluation to be an inherent and fundamental part of social projects, one that examines our actions whether in academia, civil society organisations or grassroots groups.
Participatory evaluation is backed by the theories and methodologies of Popular Education and Participatory Action Research. The activities carried out are diverse and include group activities such as sociodramas, narratives, debates, board games, videos and group readings of texts. These activities are useful for evaluating educational processes and collectively determining alternative ways of enriching and improving them.
The examples included in the book demonstrate that it is both possible and desirable to address the challenges we encounter in contemporary societies using these theoretical and methodological tools. The book analyses successful participatory evaluations of projects, such as the innovative programmes initiated by the Veracruz Ministry of Education in 2007, namely the Vasconcelos, Centros Rébsamen, Consorcio Clavijero and Canal Educativo programmes (in chapter by Julie Whitaker), the student mobility and short-term study abroad programme (featured in Irmgard Reehag’ chapter) and the skills development programme for individuals working in community projects (in chapter by Sara Ruiz and Susana Ruiz).
Participatory evaluation is a way of valuing the contributions of everyone involved in our projects. Our recognition of their contributions during the collective process of generating knowledge is also a way of contributing to improving their living conditions and quality of life.
We also design new models that enable us to discover the impact of our programmes so that together we can find new ways of self-directing interventions that enable better results which have a greater impact in our societies as part of an iterative knowledge-generating process.
Auge (2017) Manual “Estrategias participativas para la promoción de una cultura de igualdad de género en la UV”. Desarrollo Autogestionario, A.C. and Universidad Veracruzana.
Garcia Oramas, MJ. Y Ruiz Vallejo, S. (2009) Experiencias en Evaluación Participativa. Serie Hablemos de Educación, Secretaria de Educación de Veracruz, México.