Participatory Evaluation: Who evaluates whom? Why? How?

I am passionate about participatory practices. I was excited when my office Institute of Social Studies Trust with Restless Development and CMS organised a half day session on Participatory Evaluation. This was part of EvalYear celebrations. About 25 participants attended the session and deliberated on different issues around Participatory Evaluation. Mallika Samaranayake and Rajib Nandi took the lead in facilitation.


Some reflections

Top to down approaches in development can lead to ineffective programmes. For instance inspite of a large-scale campaign on semi solid food for babies after the age of six months did not lead to community response. It was found that women from poor families feared that giving salty food to babies would develop their taste for that kind of food and babies would reduce milk consumption. As the women were poor they could not afford semi solid food and breast milk was what they could afford. It is after engaging with the community that the WFP team learned this and changed their campaign.

 Those engaged in the intervention are best placed to evaluate their own work. When they take the lead in evaluating they take greater ownership, which can lead to sustainability of the development programmes.

—  During evaluation create a space so that everyone has a chance to voice his/her thoughts and experiences

—  Attitude of a participatory evaluation Facilitator is key. He/she should approach the community to learn and stimulate them to reflect and track their own progress.

—  Creativity, flexibility and visualization techniques are some other features of PE

—  We should recognize heterogeneity in the community. Power dynamics play a key role in the community.

—  Quantitative and qualitative approaches are not standalone, they are complimentary.

—  What scale can qualitative evaluation handle? For small scale studies qualitative methodology can suffice. For larger national level programmes, quantitative data can give us trends. This should be accompanied by qualitative evaluation representing relevant stakeholders and geographical areas.

—  Survey is for data collection what the evaluator wants to collect but qualitative tools are for information generation, it is transformative for both the evaluator as well as the community

 Why participatory evaluation?

  • Provides opportunity to all including those who don’t usually have a voice
  • Ownership of the progamme when evaluation is generated in the community
  • PE collects information which cannot be collected by quantitative methods
  • Data ownership of the community
  • Indepth understanding of the programme and its direct and indirect impacts and challenges (not possible in surveys)
  • Engages the communities in dialogue vs fatigue of answering the questions
  • We get answers on sensitive issues
  • To identify community behavior, resources, power structure in the community
  • Quick data triangulation is possible
  • Qualitative data can compliment traditional quantitative method based data
  • Ensure majority participation
  • Out of box data is obtained or allied data is obtained
  • Helps in a situation when there maybe no baseline data available
  • Easier to understand why what has happened in the project
  • Helps prioritise development objectives

 Way forward

We would like to embed participatory evaluation in India’s national evaluation policy and system. To take this further, we would like to:

  1. Create a Delhi-based group for regular sharing and exchange on participatory evaluation.
  2. Conduct an online discussion on PE to draw attention of the government. We will use Gender and Evaluation online platform for this discussion.
  3. Training on Participatory Evaluation


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Comment by Rituu B Nanda on January 25, 2015 at 19:54

A resource from Linkedin

Irene Guijt


Irene Guijt

Research Associate at Overseas Development Institute

For those interested in the issue of what is genuine participation in evaluation, I've also just written a piece on participation in impact evaluation for UNICEF. I raise the issue of defining more clearly who participates and to what extent on what aspects of, in that case, impact evaluation. Table 5 might be useful to some. Unfortunately I could not point to examples of participatory impact evaluation.

Comment by Soledad Muniz on January 23, 2015 at 12:16


Comment by Bhaswati Chakravorty on January 23, 2015 at 7:39

Thanks Rituu for your regular updates which I have been following with keen interest.

Comment by Zeytuna Abdella Feyissa on January 22, 2015 at 19:33

Thanks for sharing this. It is well summarized.

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