Ann Zukoski on Participatory Evaluation Approaches

My name is Ann Zukoski and I am a Senior Research Associate at Rainbow Research, Inc. in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Founded as a nonprofit organization in 1974, Rainbow Research’s mission is to improve the effectiveness of socially-concerned organizations through capacity building, research, and evaluation. Projects range in scale from one-time program evaluations to multi-year, multi-site research studies and designs that explicitly include participatory approaches designed to lead to program improvement.

Through my work, I am always looking for creative ways to capture evaluation data. Here is one rad resource and a hot tip on a participatory tool to add to your tool box.

Rad Resource: Participatory evaluation approaches are used extensively by international development organizations. This web page is a great resource for exploring different rapid appraisal methods that can be adapted to the US context.

ELDIS – ELDIS provides descriptions and links to a variety of information sources on participatory evaluation approaches, including online documents, organization’s web sites, databases, library catalogues, bibliographies, and email discussion lists, research project information, map and newspaper collections. Eldis is hosted by the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex, U.K.

Hot Tip: Evaluators are often asked to identify program impacts and measure key outcomes of community based projects. Impact and outcome measures are often externally determined by the funder. Many times, however, collaborative projects lead to unanticipated outcomes that are seen to be of great value by program participants but are overlooked by formal evaluation designs. One participatory technique, Most Significant Change (MSC), offers an alternative approach to address this issue and can be used to surface promising practices.

Most Significant Change Technique (MSC) – MSC is a participatory qualitative data collection process that uses stories to identify the impact of the program. This approach involves a series of steps where stakeholders search for significant program outcomes and deliberate on the value of these outcomes in a systematic and transparent manner. Stakeholders are asked to write stories of what they see as “significant change” and then dialogue with others to select stories of most importance. The goal of the process is to make explicit what stakeholders (program staff, program beneficiaries and others) value as significant change. The process allows participants to gain a clearer understanding of what is and what is not being achieved. The process can be used for program improvement, identifying promising practices as well as to uncover key outcomes by helping evaluators identify areas of change that warrant additional description and measurement.

Where to go for more information:

Have you used this tool? Let us all know your thoughts!

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to

2 thoughts on “Ann Zukoski on Participatory Evaluation Approaches”

  1. rv, we’ve contacted the author. it appears that site has been taken over by another group. for now, we’ve removed the link entirely. thank you for alerting us to the problem!

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