I was very fortunate to attend the Evaluation Conclave in Nepal under the project Engendering Policy through Evaluation hosted by Institute of Social Studies Trust. Participatory approaches, evaluation and strength-based approaches- these are what excite me in my work. Therefore, during the Conclave I decided to pick up the workshops on these topics to strengthen my skills.

With increased emphasis on the importance of participation in development, there is also a growing recognition that monitoring and evaluation of development initiatives should be participatory. Conventional approaches to evaluation attempt to produce information that is objective, value free and quantifiable. External evaluators are called upon to conduct evaluations for greater objectivity; participants who may be affected by the findings of an evaluation have no input in the process.  But the question is are they more responsive to people's needs?

The first workshop was Participatory evaluation facilitated by Robert Chambers and Mallika Samaranayake. Robert Chambers took us out of the hall to share and exchange and thus set the tone of a workshop facilitated in a very participatory way.  We were more than 100 participants and Robert Chambers was worried how it could be a dialogue and not a one way lecture.  I had plodded myself right in front as close as possible to these two great facilitators:-)

Robert and Mallika shared about  experiences in Participatory evaluation from around the world, used in differing contexts and involving all kinds of stakeholders- NGOs, donors, research institutions, government agencies, and communities. They introduced the key principles of participatory evaluation, its applications for differing purposes and a number of tools and methods used, including participatory learning methodologies.

As institutions become more inclusive then question who measures, for whom. I loved the question which Robert asked us evaluation for whom. This photo shows the answers participants came up with.

I learned that Participatory evaluation thinking and practice is widespread and extremely diverse. It’s primarily used in impact assessment and project management and planning and recently increased use in organisational strengthening, understanding of stakeholder perspectives and accountability.

Perhaps what distinguishes PM&E from more traditional approaches to M&E is its emphasis on participation. Different people give different meanings to the concept of participation. The two ways to characterise participation are who initiates evaluation and whose perspectives are taken into consideration during the evaluation.

Mallika shared a number of tools to conduct participatory evaluation and also informed us about some new tools like use of videos, storytelling. Robert observed that  quantitative data can be collected in  a variety of ways like community surveys. He cited the example of Rwanda where community surveys are feeding into the national census. To read more here is a link I found on Robert Chambers paper on participatory statistics http://www.ids.ac.uk/idspublication/who-counts-the-quiet-revolution...

The second session which left a deep mark on me was the one on Appreciative Inquiry and Evaluation conducted by Gana Pati Ojha, Tessie Catsambas and R.C. Lamichhane. Appreciative inquiry is one among many strength-based approaches in the world today. I am a facilitator of Community life competence another strength-based approach.  I have used it in evaluation in the past and was eager to learn more. These approaches highlight a collaborative stance where people are experts in their own lives and the facilitator’s role is to encourage people to take action to achieve their dreams. Facilitators use explicit methods for identifying individual/group and environmental strengths for goal attainment.

The session had a power point presentation and many exercises to practise the approach. This hands on experience was extremely helpful. For instance I practised in my group exercise how to use appreciative questions in mid-term evaluation. Tessie offered some very interesting examples on application of AI in evaluation. For instance when she was part of the evaluation team where the UN was about to shut down a multi-country project but the evaluation using AI brought out what was working very well in most countries and closing the project would be a huge loss of what had been achieved so far.

You can read Mr Ojha and RC  Lamichhane presentation at http://gendereval.ning.com/profiles/blogs/appreciative-inquiry-appr... Conclusion: Both sessions re-affirmed my belief that this is the way for me...I want to facilitate participatory, strength based approaches particularly in evaluation. Though I have only three years of experience in evaluation I will get there slowly and steadily...The photo summarises my belief that communities have strengths to achieve things for themselves and we working in the NGOs can facilitate this process whether in planning, implementation or evaluation. Community engagement is the key for an effective response to every development issue.

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Comment by Nidhi Sen on March 22, 2013 at 17:03

Hi Ritu,

Thanks for this post. I am interested to know more about Appreciate Inquiry process and Stregth-based approaches. Can you post links to some basic reading materials on them. Thanks. 

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