Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism (FMM)

Community Engagement enhances participation in assessing results and impact

19/05/2021

On Tuesday, 18 May 2021, the fourth of five webinars in the “Community Engagement Days” series was held via zoom. Organized by the Dimitra Clubs Team of FAO with the support of Resource Partners for the Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism (FMM), the objective of the series is to review the achievements, potential and challenges of community engagement for empowerment approaches. The fourth webinar aimed at exploring the use of community engagement in mixed research methods when assessing the results and impact of development interventions.

The event was moderated by Mr Carlos Barahona, Managing Director of Stats4SD, who has over 25 years of experience in research design, analysis and communication. In his opening remarks, Mr Barahona illustrated the importance of enabling the participation of individuals and communities affected by development interventions so that their views and priorities are taken into account.

Dr Jeremy Holland, Partner at Collaborative Impact, opened the event by delivering a presentation entitled “Who Counts? The Power of Participatory Statistics.” In his presentation, Dr Holland shared his experience and interest in participatory, qualitative and combined methods for applied research in a variety of international development contexts. He described the importance of participatory statistics, affirming that “Participatory statistics is a win-win for impact measurements because not only can it empower local people, but it can also generate accurate and generalizable statistics for outsiders who are working to contribute to changes in impact level that they see as progressive and developmental.”

The second presentation featured Ms Sonal Zavieri, Founder, Member and Coordinator of Gender and Equity Network, South Asia (GENSA) and Co-chair of EvalGender+. She firmly believes community dialogue is fundamental to any evaluation and stated that “Sometimes the designers and implementors should be the community itself.”

The event also included a presentation by Dr Ben Cislaghi, Associate Professor at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who shared his experience and research on agency and empowerment, protection, rights and equality. In his presentation, Dr Cisalghi invited the audience to let the communities lead their own development by asking: “How do you actually work in a system of complex factors? Well, the answer is you work with people, not just engaging people, but letting people lead their own development.”

Lastly, Ms Dee Jupp, Independent Consultant and Participation Researcher, shared some of her learnings from nearly 40 years of participatory development and qualitative research. She affirmed that using immersive qualitative research fosters a deeper understanding of context and, further shared insights into the complexities of behaviour change, which in turn supports community engagement. She stated that community engagement for measuring impact is about “measuring what is valued by the community, not valuing what’s measured.”

Following a highly participatory and interactive format, the event showcased the experiences of speakers in using participatory methods to evaluate processes of change, including changes in social norms. The conversation focused on power dynamics and their impact on projects, project evaluation and community engagement. Speakers also engaged in a discussion on how to change the lens through which projects are designed and evaluated to better foster community empowerment.

During the question-and-answer session, the speakers illustrated the need for a democratization of the costs of qualitative and quantitative assessments. Moreover, guest speakers stressed the importance of not homogenizing communities or making assumptions, but rather, listening, observing and fostering participatory methods to measure community engagement. With simultaneous interpretations in English, French and Spanish, the webinar attracted an impressive turnout of 200 participants from around the world.

1. No poverty, 5. Gender equality, 17. Partnership for the goals

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