Participatory to the End: Planning and Implementation of a Participatory Evaluation Strategy

The paper explores participatory evaluation as a viable option for evaluating participatory processes. Participatory evaluation aims to actively engage diverse program stakeholders at various stages and tasks of the evaluation process. Considerable literature has been published on the promises that stakeholder participation in evaluation holds for increasing the use of evaluation findings, supporting organizational learning and stakeholder empowerment.However, not all contexts are conducive to the successful implementation of participatory evaluation or to maximizing its potential. The paper discusses these opportunities and challenges in the case of Toronto Community Housing where a set of tenants and staff, with the help of external facilitators, engaged in an evaluation of the organization’s participatory budgeting process. The paper draws from this grounded experience to explore the meaning of stakeholder participation in evaluations, how participation can lead to credible findings, and what impact participatory evaluation has on participants, the organization, as well as the participatory program. Data was gathered to assess how the approach was viewed through the eyes of evaluation sponsors, participants and external evaluators. The paper ends with recommendations regarding the types of circumstances that may best support the participatory evaluation approach as well as strategies practitioners can adopt to ensure its successful implementation in the context of participatory processes.

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Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
Toronto, ON, Canada