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If you are reading the blog posts, you might have read the previous blog on What results? This blog is a continuation of that perspective. A good question to ask is, whose results are we talking about?
Traditional evaluation would look at the organization that is the one who have put the motion into place, therefore they own and control the evaluation process. The evaluation is geared towards understanding their pathway to achievement of their program results through a series of activities that are implemented by the sponsoring organization. The knowledge that will come out of the evaluation will be managed and enjoyed by the organization including the information, lessons learned, and as a requirement its accountability to its funders, donors, and partners. They can ask partners to participate in the process only as information sources to verify and validate their results hypothesis.
At the end of the day, they are the ones responsible to their donors and funders in terms of how monies and resources were spent efficiently and effectively. Most of the time, the practice is that they would hire an external evaluator to do this process and most often the case, the reports are shared only to those that matter to the organization, to the Board, staff, and funders that funded the particular program/project. While there will be sharing of post-evaluation findings, they control how the performance story will spin and who and where it will land. If the result of the evaluation is lack luster, probably the report will just be shelved for further information sharing at a later schedule.
Recent evaluation practice has evolved significantly that are more developmental, context-based, gender-informed & participatory in nature. They account for the dynamic, fluid, and unpredictable environment where evaluation is rendered, mostly appropriate in the social change sector. The approach to solving social problems are such that it is developmental, where no one single organization can account for moving the needle, and that countless interventions would be more iterative, than one-off intervention model /silver bullet approach to solution.
Participatory evaluation takes evaluation at the next level. It is rooted in the understanding the evaluation is not just for the sponsoring organization but that partners are very much part and core of the evaluation process. They just don’t extricate information from them but are co-owners, co-controllers, and co-partners in learning and knowledge sharing. Participatory evaluation has higher forms of utilization, relevance, and potency for transformation. When this happens, local partners get the most bang for the buck so to speak, because learning is not deposited in the head office but in the lives of communities who are living and breathing laboratories of change.
Is your evaluation process aware and using newer evaluation approaches? What challenges did you face along the way? What evaluation questions are not being asked?
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