Participatory Evaluation: Is This What You’ve Been Looking For?

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Among the many questions to ask yourself when designing an evaluation is, what type of an evaluation should we do? One unique and insightful form of evaluation is participatory evaluation.

Xcalibur almost exclusively offers participatory evaluation to grants. Why so? We find it provides the highest extent of evaluation impact for grants. Using participatory evaluation creates champions for evaluation to ensure it is embedded in the decision-making process.

At its core, participatory evaluation centers multiple voices by including all stakeholders in every phase of the evaluation. This is in contrast to conventional evaluation, which centers a professional evaluator driving and doing nearly all of the evaluation work.

In participatory evaluation, project staff, community members, and a professional evaluator work together to determine evaluation questions, devise collection methods, review results, and make recommendations for next steps. Because of this unique method, the resulting evaluation is relevant to the program, rooted in context, and responsive to the needs of the organization and participants. An added benefit of participatory evaluation is that it builds evaluative capacity throughout the organization. Staff gain skills in evaluative thinking, data literacy, and data-driven decision making by being active participants in evaluation activities.

Are you ready for participatory evaluation? It depends. Programs that prefer participatory evaluation are ones that want locally informed evaluation that includes multiple voices and digs deeply into questions about why programs have certain outcomes. However, the added value and depth of participatory evaluation requires a time investment by the organizational staff and buy in from several stakeholders.

Interested in learning more? Check out more about participatory evaluation from the Community Toolbox and reach out to Xcalibur at to learn more about how we do participatory evaluation.