EvalParticipativa is the Community of Practice and Learning for Participatory Evaluation for Latin America and the Caribbean. It is the result of a joint initiative between the Social and Environmental Labour Studies Program (PETAS) at the National University of San Juan (Argentina) and Focelac , the evaluation capacity development and networking project in Latin America run by the German Institute for Development Evaluation (DEval).
This community was birthed in response to increased interest and practice of evaluation both regionally and worldwide. The last few decades have seen increased contributions to evaluation theory and methodology. There has also been a surge in national evaluation policies in countries in every continent; intensified efforts to integrate evaluation in institutions; and the consolidation of diverse initiatives aimed at professionalising this practice.
Moreover, the Sustainable Development Goals set out a new global agenda of priorities for evaluation which includes making civil society the protagonist in evaluation emphasising that participation should be central in evaluation practice. Concepts such as “participation”, “support”, “stakeholder perspective” and other similar phrases have therefore become frequently heard in evaluative endeavours.
However, the notion of participation takes on different connotations depending on the context and evaluation practice does not always reflect this participatory “vocation”. Often programmes and projects which tend to mobilise engagement are nothing more than symbolic drills, especially when those involved do not understand how to redistribute power via participatory processes. In these cases, participatory evaluation is limited to mere consultation rather than offering local actors the possibility to influence core decisions in the evaluative agenda and enrich its products and impact.
It is not clear where the shortfalls lie in terms of theory and practical tools, nor which conditions and mechanisms help or hinder effective citizen participation in evaluation processes. If these matters are not addressed, it will not be possible to overcome the weaknesses found in a large proportion of participatory evaluations.
For this reason, we believe it is relevant and fitting to foster a Community of Practice and Learning for Participatory Evaluation for Latin America and the Caribbean so we can delve into these issues creatively using knowledge and analysis from concrete evaluative experiences. By doing this, we will disseminate methods and tools and maximise their influence.
As a community of practice, we start from the conviction that peer-to-peer work increases the potential to deepen knowledge and experience through different interactions (training, tool fairs and events, webinars, publications, etc.). By peers, we include all those who are involved in an evaluative process in one way or another: evaluators, decision-makers who request an evaluation, civil society organisations who make use of programmes and projects, among others.
Our aim is to create online and/or face-to-face spaces where people who are interested in participatory evaluation can reflect upon and improve their practices; be supported in their efforts; and build products together (methodologies and tools) which help professionalise this type of evaluation.
A key feature of our learning community, given its dialogic framework, is that the facilitator has the role of encouraging each participant to share their knowledge and suggest concepts, methodologies and tools.
This community of practice and learning for participatory evaluation for Latin America and the Caribbean has been created with the aim of strengthening and inclusively engaging social society in evaluative processes. We therefore intend to:
- Identify and analyse participatory evaluation experiences in Latin America and the key features that have facilitated these processes.
- Create an online repository of material for learning about participatory evaluation: manuals, guides and validated tools.
- Systematise studied experiences, documenting good practice in a participatory evaluation manual based on four core chapters: conceptualisation, methodology (processes), tools and tips for facilitation.
- Design a course to foster participatory evaluations and run a pilot project to train representatives of civil society organisations in the region.
This community of practice and learning aims to gather together all those who have experience and an interest in participatory evaluation in the region. Through horizontal and generous exchange among members, we can advance in our aforementioned goals. This is an open door community, a place where people can gather with the aim of sharing with their peers in order to keep learning and improving their practice. Sharing implies taking advantage of everything offered by EvalParticipativa whilst returning the favour by offering the experience that each person can provide.
We are convinced of the importance of horizontal and collective learning. Together, we will attempt to develop theoretical and practical knowledge on participatory evaluation in the region, exchanging lessons based on shared reflection on specific experiences using different approaches and methodologies.
How we work at EvalParticipativa
We have adopted the model of a community of practice and learning. The underlying concept is that we can develop specialised knowledge by forming a group with a special interest in this issue and come together to reflect on specific professional experience and practice. Our aim is that this space can be used to socially and collectively build knowledge on participatory evaluation without the need for an “expert” or “trainer”. We will also host spaces for capacity building which will feature educational training moments developed as dialogue-based, horizontal learning processes which will address conceptual and methodological issues around participatory evaluation.
This initiative is based on shared reflection on participatory evaluation and the adoption of innovative methodologies and tools to maximise these experiences in the region. We are interested in identifying and valuing existing initiatives as well as encouraging new practices; all of which can be used to gather knowledge from and for Latin America and the Caribbean. We intend this community of practice and learning, with a focus on participatory evaluation in the region, to be an initiative capable of providing:
- training on these topics, knowledge exchange from experiences and documentation of good practice in order to enable the sharing of lessons learned and prompt new initiatives;
- support and assistance to projects, programmes and interventions that focus their methodology on a participatory approach in any of its variants and levels;
- gather and disseminate theoretical and practical knowledge from experiences in different countries by providing access to the vast range of existing materials available and by generating new ones;
- develop participatory evaluation skills both in the public sector and in civil society organisations;
- strengthen alliances between and within regions, institutions and between various organisations including academia and evaluation training programmes;
- promote the creation of necessary conditions so that participatory evaluation processes are normalised in the region. In order to achieve this, we need to raise levels of awareness among key stakeholders; support participants; and demonstrate the advantages of and need to institutionalise this practice.