Greetings fellow evaluators! Our names are Veena Pankaj and Myia Welsh and we work for Innovation Network, a Washington DC-based evaluation firm. While Innovation Network has always used a participatory approach to evaluation, we recently came to the realization that much of the ‘participatory-ness’ of our evaluation projects was limited to evaluation planning and data collection. We suspected that an additional richness of context could be gained by including stakeholders in the analysis process.
We started by involving stakeholders in the analysis and interpretation of the data on a few projects. This helped us move from simply offering a final evaluation report with findings and recommendations, to embracing a practice that brought the client’s own perspective into the analysis.
Hot Tip: In determining whether participatory analysis may be a good fit for your evaluation needs, consider the following questions:
1. Quality: How might participatory analysis improve the quality of findings/recommendations?
2. Stakeholders: What might be the positive outcomes of engaging evaluation stakeholders?
3. Timeline & Resources: Will the participatory analysis approach fit within the project timeline and available resources?
Our experience in using this approach has helped us with the following:
- Present first drafts of data and/or findings, giving stakeholders the chance to provide context
and input on findings or recommendations;
- Help sustain stakeholder interest and engagement in the evaluation process;
- Identify which findings and recommendations are the most meaningful to stakeholders; and
- Increase the likelihood that findings and recommendations will be put to practical use.
Hot Tip: Conducting participatory analysis can be tricky. You are not just presenting ideas to stakeholders; you are facilitating a discussion process. Make sure you have an agenda in place, specific questions you’d like the stakeholders to consider and clearly communicated goals for the meeting. Having these items in place will allow you to focus on the richness of the discussion itself.
Rad Resource #1: Participatory Analysis: Expanding Stakeholder Involvement in Evaluation This recently released white paper examines the use of participatory analysis with three different organizations. Each example includes a description of purpose; the design, planning and implementation process; the effect on the overall evaluation; and lessons learned.
Rad Resource #2: Participatory Evaluation: How It Can Enhance Effectiveness and Credibility of Nonprofit Work For a different perspective, check out this article from the Nonprofit Quarterly. It discusses participatory evaluation practices in a community-based setting.
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