|Projects with People - The Practice of Participation in Rural Development (ILO - WEP, 1991, 304 p.)|
|6. Evaluating participation|
It would be wrong to conclude that conceptually, and particularly methodologically, rural development projects are currently grappling vigorously with the issue of the evaluation of participation. In comparison with statements of support for participation and efforts to develop its methodology, its evaluation has yet to substantially take off. Too often in the literature and project documentation there is a yawning gap; at the most there is reference to quantitative aspects or to participatory evaluation. However, some experimentation is under way and we await results from, for example, the FAOs trials with its Peoples Participation Project. In the meantime we can make a few observations concerning the implications of the evaluation of participation for project practice:
(1) The evaluation of participation in rural development projects is a central part of the project dynamic and not an occasional or separate activity. To be successful it must be built into the whole project process and not merely be resorted to when particular judgements concerning performance are required.
(2) To evaluate participation implies a broadening of the whole evaluation concept. Quantification and controlled measurement are not enough; the demands of the qualitative dimensions of participation will push the evaluation exercise into uncharted areas and, in terms of time, resources and methodologies, a project must be ready for this.
(3) The evaluation of participation, since it is a process which essentially seeks to understand how people are faring as a result of a development project, implies that people will be centre-stage. The evaluation dynamic will be internal and suggests a wholly different style of relationships between the people and project staff.
There is much to be done. None the less, the evaluation of participation challenges the professional evaluator to rethink practice and procedures and to suggest ways in which we might better understand such qualitative processes of rural development.