A participatory evaluation is one where those who participate in a project play an active role in evaluating their own work and the results of their project. This type of evaluation shifts the control of project knowledge back to the participants and the community. This process assists local communities and organizations in assessing information and making decisions, in taking responsibility and control. It thereby promotes greater self-reliance among the participants.
Another value of a participatory evaluation is the resulting improved understanding and increase in morale that it can bring to the project team and the project beneficiaries alike.
Case study of a participatory evaluation
A very successful participatory evaluation was conducted in a TBA training project in Bangladesh using outside consultants, project staff members, TBA participants, and local community members. This case study illustrates the values and benefits that can result from conducting a well-planned participatory evaluation.16
The staff of the TBA Training Project formed a four-member team to lead the evaluation. The team consisted of a public health consultant, a consultant on women and development, the project coordinator, and the evaluation officer of the funding agency.
The evaluation plan and the protocols for collecting data were prepared in collaboration with members of local agencies, the training staff, TBAs and community members. Data were collected at four levels:
(1) at the national level, from the ministry of health, UNICEF, project office, etc.;
(2) at the district level, from district hospital staff;
(3) at the regional level, from the rural training centre, health and family welfare centres; and
(4) at the community level, from women's and men's groups and from the traditional birth attendants.
A variety of methods were used to collect the data: these included staff sessions, individual interviews, and focus-group discussions; and direct observation of ongoing activities. A large number of project components were evaluated. These included the following:
• the process for selecting TBAs;
• the training content, methods, and materials;
• follow-up and supervision;
• health referral system;
• monitoring and evaluation of TBAs;
• coordination with other agencies;
• effect of training on participants;
• health impact and effect on community;
• cost-effectiveness and sustainability.
The evaluation report included a detailed description of its findings, conclusions, and recommendations. These recommendations were then assigned to various staff members and participants to be carried out. These recommendations included actions to improve the monitoring system through increased feedback from TBAs in the field and to improve collaboration and referrals between the Ministry of Health clinics and the TBAs.
A year later, another evaluation was performed on this project to determine the impact of the training on the TBAs and the community1. Among other results, the study found that the periodic follow-up system for upgrading the skills and solving problems of the TBAs in the field was very effective, the collaboration and referral system between the TBAs and the Ministry of Health outpatient facilities was functioning smoothly at most clinics, and that the morale among the TBAs was high.
Itis assumed that the participation of local staff members and TBAs who were involved in the project evaluation in 1992 and the resulting follow up actions that they took to carry out the recommendations in the report had some effect on the positive conditions found in the field study a year later.