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Posted November 1997

Participation in practice / 10
Monitoring and evaluation

Introduction | People's Participation Programme (PPP)| Project preparation | Forming groups | Group activities | Implementing agencies | Financial component | Group promoters | Participatory training | Monitoring and evaluation | Project sustainability | Costs and benefits | Replicating the PPP approach | Complete Special as a single 121K file

RESEARCH, MONITORING AND EVALUATION are essential functions of any development project. Properly performed, they help donors, governments and implementation agencies to identify project constraints and beneficiary needs, to monitor progress toward project objectives and to evaluate results. Since one of the main aims of participatory projects is to develop the rural poor's own capacity to identify and solve their problems, they must be involved directly in all phases of this process.

In PPP, research, monitoring and evaluation are intended primarily to meet the information needs of the participants and solve concrete problems they confront. The approach is viewed as a participatory learning tool that helps groups to strengthen their problem-solving capacity and achieve self-reliance.

Participatory action research

A basic tenet of the PPP approach is that, in planning and implementing participatory projects, field investigators should involve the rural poor in collecting and analysing information on social and economic conditions, on constraints affecting the poor and their organizations, and on the community as a whole. Only through participatory action research of this kind can the project learn about the problems of the poor and help them to find solutions.

Initially, the main research objectives are to select the project area and - within these, village-clusters - to identify the rural poor and to determine whether they are involved in development efforts, especially through existing local organizations. Research is then conducted to assess potentials for group formation, to plan and implement group activities and to develop appropriate training programmes.

During project implementation, ongoing participatory research aims at solving concrete problems and providing data for field workshops, developing and sustaining a workable participatory monitoring and evaluation system, carrying out case studies of rural poor groups and developing appropriate technologies for project participants.

Tools for participatory action research are simple household and village surveys conducted periodically, mainly by GPs in collaboration with participants. These surveys will help to establish economic and social benchmarks, which highlight the status of the beneficiaries in the initial phase of the project and allow progress to be evaluated.

Group discussions with villagers are useful in familiarizing project staff with the local people and their situation, and in enhancing awareness of the villagers' problems. Part of this action research is a careful and systematic recording of GPs' findings, particularly of steps taken by participants to form their groups.

Participatory monitoring

Participatory monitoring is a process of collecting, processing and sharing data to assist project participants in decision making and learning. The purpose is to provide all concerned with information as to whether group objectives are being achieved. Implementing agencies and donors also require data on progress toward overall project objectives.

A workable participatory monitoring system should, therefore, be based on a multi-level approach that harmonizes the different - and often competing - information needs of those involved in the project and provides for regular meetings at each level to make use of the data generated.

The main tools for participatory monitoring are:

The information gathered should indicate shortfalls in project performance and discrepancies between objectives planned and those achieved. This information will be used in modifying project objectives and rectifying project deficiencies.

Participatory monitoring should be conceived from the beginning as part of the group learning and action process. This means that baseline and benchmark data, as well as data on inputs, outputs, work plans and progress made in group development, should be recorded, discussed and kept for later use.

Groups should keep records of their meetings and of major problems discussed, decisions made and actions undertaken, using elementary standardized forms contained in simple log-books. Each group should also learn a minimum of bookkeeping in order to record their loans and savings. The systematic collection of data on loans and repayment, in conjunction with simple cost-benefit analyses, gives essential insights into the capacity of groups to manage their affairs and improve their conditions.

Participatory evaluation

On-going evaluation is the systematic analysis by beneficiaries and project staff of monitored information, with a view to enabling them to adjust or redefine project objectives, policies, institutional arrangements, resources and activities, where necessary.

The main evaluation tools are:

These tools should all be used to promote a constant two-way flow of information between groups and the project staff.

The groups should also be encouraged to evaluate the performance of the delivery system. This helps groups to "talk back" to the delivery system by, for example, focusing on shortcomings and identifying bottlenecks. The results may then be brought up in field workshops.

Evaluation done in this way stimulates critical awareness and motivation for better group self-management. Self-evaluation results need to be presented systematically to other project participants at local and higher levels.

Evaluation should include not only tangible and measurable results of group activities but, as much as possible, spill-over benefits that facilitate the group members' economic, social and human development. It should consider, for example, progress in acquiring verbal and writing skills, in presenting ideas logically and clearly, in overcoming timidity when dealing with officials and in overcoming anti-social habits, such as excessive drinking and gambling.

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