CALL FOR MEANINGFUL LESSONS LEARNT IN PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION EXPERIENCES

Dear colleagues and friends, it is our great pleasure to begin the second half of this year by announcing this new pursuit and inviting you all to be a part of it.

This call is simple but bold: we want you to share experiences that highlight lessons that you have discovered during your evaluation and social participation practice.

We are interested in listening to the voices on the ground; the wisdom that comes from practice. We want to make those roads travelled, those moments of stumbling and finding your feet again, those discoveries and the joy they brought accessible to everyone reading. We want to value the subjectivity of each member of this community and open up a space to share the anecdotes and stories that have come out of your participatory evaluation experiences.

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By reason or by force. Documentary on Santa Teresa Settlement Participatory Evaluation (Chile)

One of EvalParticipativa’s main aims is to share evaluation experiences that have not been shared before and learn from them. Another aim is to make public stories of lived experiences, struggle and social organisation which often go unnoticed by society even though they exist right under its nose. It is our great pleasure to share this documentary “By reason or by force”, an initiative which fulfils both these objectives.

It relates to an experience promoted by TECHO, an organisation which works in 19 Latin America countries which seeks to overcome the poverty experienced by millions of people living in informal settlements through the collaboration of inhabitants with young volunteers.

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THE FAIR HAS COME TO TOWN!

The last day of the First Gathering of Participatory Evaluation Experiences for Latin America and the Caribbean began with an invitation to reflect on the various techniques, tools and instruments used in PE.

Participants took it in turns to select tools that they felt comfortable using and put them into different categories: audiovisuals, narratives, graphics and texts, group/experiential activities. Then, they exchanged their experiences and perspectives on them.

The narrative tools included systematisation, testimonies, journals, the More Significant Change, stories from the future, studies of good practice, lifestyle analysis. Graphics and textual tools included collaborative drawings, transects and maps, stones and fishes, mind maps (of networks, resources and stakeholders), calendars, diagrams and matrices.

For group/experiential experiences, participants proposed simulation games, maps, sociometry, focus groups, collective mapping, community meetings and assemblies, timelines, workshops on varied themes.

Finally, in terms of audiovisual tools, they focused on techniques which include videos and photolanguage.

Then, armed with advice to practise active listening, we held a conversation over coffee around the following question: What is the main challenge we face in making sure that PE tools and instruments reach their full potential?

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THE ART OF BEING A FACILITATOR

One of the most eagerly awaited sessions began with a challenge for those participants who arrived late: to carry out the Make an Eight forfeit, which involved drawing a figure of 8 with their bodies. This was a fun way to start our discussion on the following question: “What are we talking about when we refer to facilitation and facilitators?”.

Using a kinaesthetic version of multiple choice, the participants decided between true and false options regarding evaluation matrices, questions, social action theory, sources and tools.

Jorge Chávez–Tafur ran the session for facilitators and invited us to use introspection and hindsight to evaluate our own practice. He also took us on a tour of accepted international definitions of the term facilitation, which included entries as varied as yanapai -a Quechua term which means help- and Voorlichtingskunde -which alludes to the science of “lighting the way” in Dutch-. Taking into account the diversity of names, which at times shared little in common, he insisted that rather than agree on terms, the important thing was to capture all that they covered: content, effects and impact.

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PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION INSIDE THE TREASURE CHEST

The third day began with a “treasure” hunt! But instead of searching for golden coins, the participants were let loose in the large hotel patios to find elements which make the participatory evaluation process more rigorous and legitimate.

In two groups, the participants looked for cards which featured steps involved in the traditional evaluation process but which also evoke basic aspects of PE. This led to a conversation about the sought-after rigorousness involved in: identifying stakeholders, formulating objectives and questions to gather information, creating working plans, gathering information, analysis and reporting as well as improvement measures.

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PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION AS A KEY TO EMPOWERMENT FIRST DAY OF THE GATHERING FROM THE EARTH’S ‘CENTRE’.

With welcoming smiles and anticipation in their eyes, the participants shared their accents, nuances and idioms around a single topic: their experiences with Participatory Evaluation.

After personal and institutional introductions, one question caught the participants by surprise: “What do I like about myself.

Despite their humility and the fact that they were not used to talking so openly about themselves, everyone agreed on the same characteristics; passionate, intrepid, curious, humble and ready to learn. It was as if Participatory Evaluation attracts all those willing to be disruptive, not only in their personal lives but also in all the domains they come into contact with.

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THE FIRST GATHERING OF EXPERIENCES IS COMING!

Hello friends! Not long now until we have our First Gathering of Participatory Evaluation Experiences for the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, which will take place in Quito, Ecuador from 18 to 22 November 2019.

Motivation

The motivation behind this gathering is in part the recognition that there already exists a diversity of participatory evaluation experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean. Our open call was widely accepted and we have selected 16 experiences of this type of evaluation which we think reflect the great diversity and richness present in our region.

They include experiences which all, explicitly or implicitly, have a clear transformative intention; experiences which encourage the social action participants (whether in a policy, programme or project) to take a leading role in evaluation. We have invited to this first gathering those who have used their evaluative practice to facilitate these processes and to strengthen and build capacity in organisations. Continue reading

PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION: A JOURNEY IN OVERCOMING PRECONCEIVED IDEAS ABOUT EVALUATION

The programme, Servicio País (from the Poverty Alleviation Foundation) started working on Participatory Evaluation (PE) several years ago in a somewhat desperate attempt to conduct evaluations that were more coherent with the programme’s internal logic. It promotes a promotional and collective model which puts local organisations at the heart of development instead of individuals.

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MEETING FOR A COMMON CAUSE: THE ROLE OF THE ‘TEAM’ IN PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION

One of the main characteristics of participatory evaluation is that of forming evaluation teams which give local stakeholders the leading role.

It is precisely this local element which ensures that we have trustworthy knowledge about the reality we are evaluating. It incorporates experience from ‘on the ground’ with specific subject knowledge relevant to the evaluation. Making the local context central to the process brings the challenge to find a balance between the “opportunity to participate with the capacity to participate”, enabling a harmonious development of various social, political and cultural experiences.

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EVALUATION AND THE CENTRAL ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY. REFLECTIONS AS PREPARATION FOR THE FIRST GATHERING OF PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION (PE) EXPERIENCES FOR LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

Interest in evaluating public policies has grown significantly in the last fifteen years. This is reflected in theoretical and methodological production as well in the increase of national evaluation policies in countries of all continents. It is also seen in the increasing institutionalisation of evaluation and a surge of initiatives focused on making this practice more professional. Since the 2015 ‘International Year of Evaluation’ evaluation has become a global trend. This has made the main international development organisations converge their interests and actions with regional evaluation networks (VOPEs), foundations, various government bodies, non-governmental organisations and academia; all of whom are interested in maximising evaluation as an instrument for improving public policies.

In addition to this, the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were an important step forward for evaluation theory and practice. With regard to our context, the idea is to generate a new agenda of global evaluation priorities from 2016 to 2030 which aims to bridge the gap between the community of evaluators (supply) and the community of decision makers (demand), giving a central role to civil society as way of ensuring that evaluations do not only respond to the needs of end users but also meet evidence-based quality standards which are credible and can be used to create and manage public policies.

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