Participatory Evaluation

Sambodhi > Blog > Research and M&E > Participatory Evaluation
Posted by: Kultar Singh
Category: Research and M&E
Participatory Evaluation

Participatory evaluation has existed for a considerable time and has been one of the most powerful evaluation approaches. It is an approach, not a model or a design. It is adaptable and fluid and can take on different shapes in various settings.  

As the name suggests, participatory evaluation is by nature and spirit participative in nature. It has ownership as the key and takes the community and all stakeholders as part of the design and execution evaluation. Usually, donor agencies or policymakers evaluate whether the project has brought about changes. In participative evaluation, the community is involved, right from conceptualization to evaluation. The emphasis is on identifying the lessons learned to help improve program implementation. In participative evaluation, the design is flexible and determined during the group processes (Patton, 2008).  

Why should one use participatory evaluation? 

The first has to do with problem-solving in the real world. It is what we refer to as a pragmatic or instrumental justification— we want to improve the program, satisfy some accountability demands and deal with practical problem-solving. Therefore, this justifies a collaborative approach such as participatory evaluation. Additionally, it also helps in fostering self-determination and action. It has much to do with assisting individuals in recognizing their abilities and capitalizing on them. Further, it helps expand our understanding of the meaning of complicated phenomena.  

The Process  

Participatory evaluation is more than just assigning group members a task; it is more than just participating in the evaluation at the end of the project. Rather, participatory evaluation should be conducted throughout the entire project, and those involved in the evaluation should include all project participants. These individuals include stakeholders such as professional evaluators, project employees, project beneficiaries, participants, and any other community members.  

A participatory evaluation may take time, but as members get to know one another, they can form connections, building trust within the group. Involvement and contribution from every member are a must. They must also receive sufficient training to comprehend the project and determine the best implementation approach. Finally, it is crucial for everyone in the group to know and learn the diverse cultures and ideas they may be dealing with because it is difficult to support those you do not understand. 

The participatory evaluation must be collaborative, exploratory, interactive, and involve the community as equal stakeholders. The specific steps for the execution of participatory evaluation are similar to general evaluation: 

  • Finalizing the purpose of the  project/program 
  • Identifying activities to achieve objectives  
  • Finalizing and identifying measurements to assess outcomes in collaboration with the community as equal stakeholders 
  • Identifying participatory M&E approaches 
  • Selecting participatory methods to collect information 
  • Data collaboration and analysis  
  • Reporting and finalizing action in a participatory manner based on the findings

Advantages and Disadvantages of Participatory Evaluation 

Firstly, participatory evaluation is less expensive. It can add tremendous value in the form of empowerment and transferable skills that can be used elsewhere when you need difficult-to-obtain information. 

The participatory economy creates opportunities for people to interact, work together and help them get to know each other. Participatory evaluation can also change other aspects of community life and the social characteristics of the community over time.  

One of the most significant disadvantages of participatory assessment is that it requires much time. However, if time is not an issue, you can acquire many benefits of participatory evaluation without the downsides.  

Who should be involved in the participatory evaluation?  

There could be a wide range of individuals who should be involved, including: 

  • the participants, who are the people usually benefiting from the project 
  • the people who run their projects, such as the project line staff and volunteers 
  • the administrators, the people who help coordinate the project 
  • other stakeholders, such as influencers, if required
  • Baldwin, M. (2012). Participatory action research. In M. Grey, J. Midgley, & S.A. Webb. (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of social work. (pp. 467–482). London: Sage Publications. 
  • FRC (2007): Monitoring and Evaluation in a nutshell. (IFRC). [Accessed: 13.05.2010] 
  • Increasing Participation in Evaluating – Bruner Foundation Guide - This guide discusses how Organization Staff, Evaluators and Funders are involved in Participatory Evaluation. 
  • Jacobs, A., C. Barnett, et al. (2010). “Three Approaches to Monitoring: Feedback Systems, Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation and Logical Frameworks.” IDS Bulletin 41(6): 36-44. 
  • Patton, M. Q. (2008). Utilization-focused evaluation (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage. 

Kultar Singh – Chief Executive Officer, Sambodhi

Author: Kultar Singh