Why Participatory Evaluation? Reflections from a Global Northerner

by Ann Marie Castleman 

I was first introduced to participatory evaluation in Nicaragua. Like many people educated in the United States, I was trained in Western approaches to evaluation and research originating mostly from the social sciences. When I began working in monitoring and evaluation at a small NGO in Managua, it felt as though none of that training was relevant – largely because it was not. I did not fully understand at the time, but I now realize it was because I was trained in an epistemology or way of viewing the world that was largely out of touch with the local culture and context of the remote, rural communities where my team members and I supported health promoters to provide basic medical care in their communities. We used participatory approaches and methods including Photovoice, the Most Significant Change Technique, and Appreciative Inquiry.

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Evaluation and participation in humanitarian action: contributions to the debate from Latin America

                                      by Alcides Gussi, Marcia Braz & Regislany Morais

The contemporary debate on evaluation and participation in humanitarian action is particularly prominent in Latin America. Multiple and diverse humanitarian contexts, crisis types and humanitarian responses exist in the region. It is also home to several study centres and researchers who discuss participation.

This is unsurprising given that the region is the birthplace for major theoretical influences on the topic. Moreover, professional evaluator networks have been established where highly diverse evaluation perspectives are shared, contributing significantly to the construction of knowledge and emphases given in the field of evaluation.

All this context strengthens a rich exchange of knowledge and experience on humanitarian action, evaluation and participation in Latin America. In this article, we will briefly introduce these concepts and invite those interested to get involved in the work developed in Brazil by the Humanitarian Action Evaluation Studies Group.

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Aligning agendas to promote participation in public policies

por Susana Menéndez-Roldán, María Dolores Torralbo-Obrero y Salustiano Luque-Lozano

A few months ago, the Practical Guide for Participatory Planning and Evaluation of Public Policies: Mainstreaming Participation (available in Spanish) was added to the EvalParticipativa Resources section. We, Susana Menéndez-Roldán, María Dolores Torralbo-Obrero and Salustiano Luque-Lozano, from the Andalusian Institute of Public Administration (Andalusia, Spain), have written this post to tell you more about this guide.

Citizen participation is the best way to achieve social inclusion. It is, after all, one of the goals included in the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs). More specifically, it aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies that can achieve sustainable development, facilitate access to justice for all people, and build effective, inclusive and accountable institutions at all levels. Gender equality is another important goal to ensure the full and effective participation of women and equal leadership opportunities at all decision-making levels in political, economic and public life.

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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.

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by Sergio Martinic & Luis Soberón

This article describes the drafting process for the recently published revised and expanded Standards for Latin America and the Caribbean. We give a brief description of the methodology followed, highlighting its participatory nature and the most significant milestones and results. We then examine in more detail questions concerning participation, a cross-cutting thread of particular interest that is woven through all four dimensions and the twenty standards that make up the Standards document.

The document itself can be accessed in English, Spanish and Portuguesse.

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Games as a participatory tool in evaluation

A reflection from the systematisation of the guinea pig production experience (Peru).

by Ana Tumi Guzmán

In this article, I’m going to share some thoughts concerning a systematisation experience that involved stakeholders with varying degrees of training. I will draw particular attention to the engaging tools used to promote analysis and reflection.

The provinces of Jaén and San Ignacio, in the department of Cajamarca, are renowned in Peru for producing high-quality coffee that is exported to several international markets. Most inhabitants in these areas farm this seasonal crop and their work is particularly intensive during the harvest period between April and September when labour is most demanded. The staggered sale of their harvest is reflected in the income they receive.

Within this context, a development organisation working in the area embarked on a business diversification project to provide producers with additional sustained income as a way of reducing their dependence on coffee production. A participatory consultation process with the coffee growers led to the decision to implement various business types that included the technical production of guinea pigs, to be reared for the local market where there is a high demand that is largely unsatisfied. The guinea pigs, also known as cavy, or cuy/cuyes in Spanish, is a domestic rodent species, the result of a millennia of cross-breeding several species in the Andean region of South America.

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Popular education in the ‘Fe y Alegría’ network: reflections and contact with participatory evaluation

Today we would like to share with this community of practice and learning, EvalParticipativa, the experience and perspective of the international organisation Fe y Alegría regarding its connection to participatory evaluation.

The article highlights a recent institutional document produced by this organisation, created by members of the Commission responsible for its collective construction: Beatriz Borjas, Antonio Pérez Esclarín and Vicente Palop. In this post, they first introduce us to aspects of Fe y Alegría’s identity and activity as a context for its main commitment to popular education, a key element and close relative to participatory evaluation as we shared in our post When cousins meet and in the handbook, Sowing and Harvesting.

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EvalParticipativa: An initiative that gives meaning to the Epistemologies of the South

by Celeste Ghiano (*)

When reviewing the objectives of the EvalParticipativa Community, I read: ‘[…]our aim is that this space can be used for the social and collective construction of knowledge on participatory evaluation without the need for an “expert” or “trainer”...’  I also read ‘[…]horizontal and collective learning’. And it automatically brings to mind ideas from Popular Education (Freire), Justice against Epistemicide (de Souza Santos) and Interculturality.

Our region has spent years developing alternative ways of thinking about evaluative processes, deconstructing ways of thinking and doing.  This has introduced interesting debates that have led us to reflect not only on how to evaluate but also on who should evaluate (and from what knowledge and what feelings).

The Network for Monitoring, Evaluation and Systematization of Latin America and the Caribbean (ReLAC) promotes the development of these topics through its working groups. Thus, the group, Evaluate from Latin America and the group Evaluation Standards for Latin America and the Caribbean, develop and exchange ideas, and generate theoretical and practical knowledge to cause us to think and reflect along these lines and in accordance with the network’s mission and objectives.

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Reflecting on a research methodology involving beneficiaries in participatory evaluation

by Kylie L. Kingston

My participatory evaluation research journey was sparked by a motivation to involve young children, as the beneficiaries of an educational program, in evaluating their pre-school program. I wanted children to have the opportunity to participate in designing and using evaluation processes, so as to have their voice heard and to impact on programs and activities they were involved in.

Subsequently, this motivation broadened to include beneficiaries of any age and led to my masters and PhD research in which I sought to understand beneficiaries’ perspectives on participating in evaluating nonprofit organisations. After all, if beneficiaries don’t want to be involved in evaluation processes, requiring them to be is unlikely to be a useful, empowering or voice-giving experience.

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by Sara Vaca

After studying business and spending my early career working in the private sector, discovering what “participation” meant, albeit theoretically, was key. I understood that “participation” meant that several stakeholders had a voice (and vote) in decision making during the four phases of the evaluation: the design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation… seemed simple enough!

From that moment (back in 2012), I began to notice that most evaluation reports included in their summary or methodology something along the lines of: “this is a (highly) participatory evaluation”, and some even mentioned it in the title itself (“participatory evaluation of…”), when what they really meant was that they had consulted many people or groups, but only as informants…! I wondered why they called it participation when what they actually meant was that they had consulted a wide sample.

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