Participatory evaluation guide - Talking about the project

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Talking about the Project

After discussion of the context, we have found that direct and pointed discussions about the project's aims, activities, strategies and impact or related changes have more meaning, and are effective to draw out its relevance and effectiveness, contribution to social change and potential. There are many ways of facilitating these kinds of discussions, we have used participatory graphics such as trees, roads and rivers to structure conversation and presentation, as well as World Cafe set-up with open space for graphic representation. These are used to explore simple questions such as: 'How did you get involved?', 'what have you done with the project?', 'What difference has it made?' and 'what do you think it/ they should do next?'. This can then be related back to the discussion of context and social change from the previous day/ session to put the project in (and analyse its relevance to) context.

Later, if possible, this can be followed up with deeper exploration and reporting using direct research and different media such as photographs, video, graphics and written articles.


What has been done?

Participants need to have opportunity to present what they have done early on in the workshop. It is the basis and foundation of much of their input into the workshop, so should be shared as early as practicable to avoid the need to explain during every intervention. It is important for people to share what they have done, learn from each other and be acknowledged for their work and achievements. it is also the basis of much of the analysis on change. However, this approach also requires that people are able to talk about their own lives and opinions without being constrained by thinking about and relating everything to the project. Timing should reflect the need to build this open discussion.

This discussion can be held through facilitated group work, and/ or pre-prepared presentations to describe their own engagement with the project. I have often used a mixture of both, asking people to present as part of a wider session to look at different aspects of their engagement and its impact. For this, participatory graphic exercises are useful.

Understanding impact/ change:

In order to re-tell their stories it is helpful for participants and stakeholders to understand the change that has taken place. These changes take place at personal, group, community, national and international levels. It is, therefore, useful to have tools to explore what has changed and how this relates to what has been done, so that you know what to measure or show the impact and change from the project.

You can explore this using questions such as:

o What changes did you experience at personal, group, community, national levels

o What was done to achieve these changes? What else was done?

o What were the main challenges?

o What would you like to happen next?

There are many different types of participatory tools and exercises which can be used to explore these questions. For example:

world cafe

graphic exercises

Stakeholder mapping

It may help participants to plan their story if they think about the different stakeholders who are involved in, influenced by or relevant to the project. This can help to bring up more areas of change and impact, or identify more people who can contribute to telling the story.

One way of doing this is to ask the group to brainstorm different groups of people who are relevant to (touched by) the project and its aims and write each on a card or post-it note. Placing a card representing the project in the middle of a table or piece of paper, they can then arrange the others around it, closer or further away depending on the extent to which they are influenced by the project. Discuss how they are placed and why, and whether the group are happy with the situation or think it should be different. Then ask the group to rearrange the stakeholder cards according to the extent to which they influence the project's success or impact. Again discuss. Finally, you can ask them to rearrange the cards to represent how they feel the project stakeholder map should look. Discuss any differences and why this was the case. Are any stakeholders missing?

Understanding changes through stories

At this stage, the group will need to identify narratives, or stories, which illustrate important points related to changes that have been experienced, the context for those changes and the role of the project. This can be based on selection of a particular change or impact which they wish to communicate (or several if small groups can be formed), based on the analysis in previous steps. Otherwise, it could start with selection of different interest groups who can tell stories of change from their different perspectives.

Identify stories to tell:

The first step is for the group(s) to choose a theme or particular change to explore and illustrate through their story. Clear contenders may have emerged from the previous analysis of context and the project, which can be prioritised using ranking exercises as described here [[1]]. Some of the techniques from Most Significant Change can also be useful for the group to prioritise and select changes to explore further. It is important to ensure that the themes selected can not only describe changes and how they happened, but also highlight the role of the project in that.

For example, in a workshop with young people in Kenya, we had identified many changes taking place in the individuals and groups participating in the project activities, and decided to split into groups according to age and type of engagement (school pupils who had run discussion clubs, older youth who had been involved in awareness raising work and youth counsellors). Each group then discussed and prioritised the changes they wished to communicate, and from there were able to plan the flow of the story, the people they needed to interview and the pictures they needed to illustrate that. In another workshop with young people in Nicaragua, the group was from across the whole country so we split into groups according to geographical area and each chose a theme to explore and illustrate.

Planning the data collection and story structure

The stories are factual, but the groups should be encouraged to think creatively about how to present the real issues and experiences they wish to communicate. Direct work with each group to explore the theme can encourage them to think of the different aspects - including different respondents - that could make up their story.

  • A spider diagram can be a good way to explore this. Placing the central theme in the middle, ask the group to brainstorm different issues, people, places, activities, examples and so on which are related to this theme or change. For example, if the change selected were "more support from parents" they might brainstorm some of the ways in which this is evident, some of the impacts this has on their life, and how they are building on this to make other changes. They could think about who (apart from them and their parents) who might be able to give evidence, perspectives, opinions or examples of how this change has happened and the difference it has made.

Based on this spider diagram or discussion, the group can start to think about the flow of the story. Do you want to reveal bit by bit, or explain first and fill in details later? What do you want to show? In what order?

From there, the group can plan the people they need to speak to, yhe questions they need to ask, the shots they need (places, activities etc). o Who do you need to talk to? o What questions do you need to ask? o What do you need to explain to outsiders/ audience for them to understand? o What can you show? Images do you need to get?

It is useful to plan the order or flow of the resulting story, remembering that this can change if more or different information is found, or some people are not available to interview. Between the frames[[2]] is a useful exercise to think this through.

At this stage, the group need to plan carefully how they are going to collect the relevant information, interviews and pictures/ shots in the time they have available, contacting prospective interviewees and delegating tasks amongst the group.

The following exercises can be useful to help the group/ participants think about good interviewing and ways of telling stories, especially around personal or sensitive issues.


Telling Stories in Different Ways

Treasure Hunt to practice using cameras, and taking quality photos, and get some pictures which illustrate important aspects of the environment.

Preparing presentations

A full participatory video process requires time for technical training, and most of all for editing. The resulting videos can be very powerful and effective communication tools, providing scope to include context for the issues and points raised. However, in a shorter workshop carved out of an evaluation process much can be done to enable the 'primary stakeholders' to tell their own stories and share their perspectives of the relevance and impact of a project. This can be done using photo stories or presentations, for example, which are quicker to put together and edit than a full video film.

In Kenya, three small groups of young people collected interviews and photographs to illustrate their stories. I then worked with each group to prepare a powerpoint presentation to tell their story, based around key photographs. The group selected the first photograph which was placed on the ppt page. I then asked them to explain why they had chosen that picture and what it represented, and wrote the key points from their response. We then edited this text to provide bullet points and added a heading/ title. We continued with the following photographs until the story was complete. A final slide was added for them to share their ideas for next steps. At this stage each group presented their story using the powerpoint presentation as a guide, to the rest of the group, including the project team, followed by discussion and questions. Following the three presentations, more general discussion was held to draw conclusions.

In Nicaragua, the young people prepared their stories in different formats (a lot more familiar with using smartphones, social media and video editing than their counterparts in Kenya). The resulting videos, photomontages and powerpoint presentations were shared, and a general discussion held to pull out key issues and commonalities.

Feeding back your interpretation

While the workshop participants are out collecting data for their stories, I tend to use the time to prepare my own presentation to share with them my own interpretation of what I have learned from them, during the first stage of the workshop. - what have I understood about their context (in relation to the project issues)? What is life like for girls, boys, women, men? How do they experience their rights? In a workshop for an evaluation of a youth sexual health and rights project, this included my understanding of attitudes towards young people's sexuality, the impact of this on their sexual rights, and the opportunities and constraints on change to this. - what I have understood about the project - what it has tried to do, who has been involved, what has been achieved, participants' experiences of it. - what has changed and why.

In Kenya I prepared a powerpoint presentation using photographs taken by the participants during the workshop. Once I shared this back I was able to check that they were happy with my interpretation and understanding of the workshop discussions, and make changes accordingly. Then I incorporated slides from their own presentations to illustrate the points further, creating in this way a much more collaborative piece which could be shared with the NGOs who had implemented and funded the project.

In The Gambia, I was working with a group of women in a rural area without electricity or computers. In this case, I developed a river graphic to illustrate and explain my interpretation of what we had discussed (see graphic exercises ), from the beginnings of the project, the different inputs, the external influences, the changes that had been experienced at different levels and so on. We developed this further together, and I then shared it with the NGOs that had been involved in implementing the project, adding more aspects to the 'project description', presenting it again in this more complete form to the organisation managing the whole project.

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