|Inter-regional project for participatory upland conservation and development - NEPAL - Strengthening the participatory process through community-based evaluation and re-planning workshops (1996)|
|2. Workshop design and preparation|
Following these preliminary meetings, the International Consultant in M&E and Participatory Methods, and the National Consultants in Participatory Methods and Capacity Building joined in Base Camp to prepare the exercises to be carried out during the workshop, and the overall time table of the event.
Following a preliminary review of PRA techniques so far used by PUCD staff, New Era participatory evaluation background and similar experiences carried out by PUCD sister project in other countries, three exercises were eventually selected for implementation:
* a participatory impact mapping exercise aimed at facilitating (i) the identification of actual or expected changes in living conditions (and/or natural resource management) related to the implementation of CAP activities; and (ii) a visual assessment of their distribution throughout the community territory and population (made possible by plotting identified "impacts" on the community map -prepared during 1995 PRA; see Box 1, for further operational details);
* a series of on-the-spot visits to completed or on-going physical works, aimed at facilitating an analysis of strengths and weaknesses in implementation and opportunities for future improvement4, based on direct observation of positive and negative aspects of the work done and/or on recall of factors which affected the implementation process (see Box 2);
* a participatory planning exercise, based on an improved participatory planning matrix. Main improvements felt as necessary in the organisation of the matrix included: i) a column for definition of the "what for?" of each activity (i.e., of its potential impacts and effects); and (ii) the merging in one single field of the "support from the project" and "support from other institutions" columns, aimed at decreasing the project mandate bias, observed in 1996 CAP (see Box 3).
4 Even though usually foreseen by the SWOT/SWOL technique, the identification of negative factors unlikely to be overcome in the future (threats or limitations) was not included during initial PRA. In order to limit as much as possible potentially confusing changes in the application of this technique, decision was made to stick on previous and already consolidated practice. Therefore this exercise will be hereinater referred as SWO (strengths, weaknesses and opportunities analysis).
Moreover, the following of general organisational and methodological orientations for workshop implementation were agreed upon by consultants:
* Due to the relatively high number of participants, the workshop should include both small group-work activities (aimed at facilitating active participation also of less talkative persons) and plenary sessions (allowing for exchange among groups and further discussion). A member of the workshop team, trained in the technicalities of the different exercises should support each working group as facilitator; the National Consultants in Participatory Methods and Capacity Building should act as coordinators and moderators of the plenary sessions.
* Evaluation exercises should be carried out by members of the user groups who took direct responsibility for the implementation of the activity under consideration, with eventual non participants basically acting as external (though, not silent) observers. In order to ensure process homogeneity among working groups, these exercises will be methodologically facilitated by workshop team members. However, maximum care should be taken by the facilitator to not orient, nor influence the content of participants judgements with his own (or project) opinions.
* Similarly, re-planning exercise should be carried out by user groups which will take care of implementation. As a consequence the overall final CAP would be the sum of user-groups plan, eventually adjusted on the basis of suggestions and amendments forwarded during the subsequent plenary session. Participatory planning exercise should be kept completely open-ended, i.e. based on felt needs of the concerned user group members and not limited, nor biased, by project mandate. Nevertheless, it was agreed that during this exercise the facilitators should play a more active role than in evaluation. This should include probing the potential feasibility of participants proposals, and support in identifying the more appropriate source of external assistance (i.e., the relevant line-agency or NGO).
To visually summarise some of these ideas, the "workshop trail" - a schematic representation of the workshop process to be presented during the introductory plenary session - was prepared (see Box 4). Furthermore, facilitator guidelines and training examples (in Nepali) were prepared for each one of the above mentioned exercises.