Although interest in participatory evaluation continues to grow, most of the literature about it focuses on outcomes of participatory evaluations and facilitating stakeholder participation. A gap exists in our knowledge about participatory evaluation methodology, specifically in how and why people are selected to co-evaluate programs. This study examines participant selection in participatory evaluation, which for the purposes of the study includes pragmatic, utilization, empowerment, and transformative forms of evaluation.
The study's findings, based on individual interviews with 16 practicing evaluators in the United States and Canada, indicate that the rationale for stakeholder participation and program context influenced stakeholder selection. Stakeholder selection was motivated by multiple, rather than single rationales for participatory evaluation. Cases with pragmatic rationales, including improved data or evaluation processes and increased evaluation utilization, were more likely to restrict stakeholder selection to program staff, managers, evaluation clients, and program funders. Cases with values-based rationales, which included empowerment or transformative goals, were more likely to include program beneficiaries and community members on evaluation teams.
In spite of these general patterns, variability in evaluation team composition among cases with identical rationales indicates that program context also influenced stakeholder relevance. Nine context factors were found to influence stakeholder selection in this study. They are: 1) the evaluator's values, experience, and substantive knowledge; 2) characteristics of program stakeholders; 3) public perception of program effectiveness; 4) social and professional networks; 5) program characteristics including the number and location of program sites; 6) program type; 7) program goals; 8) program culture or climate; and 9) time and financial resources available for the evaluation.
Stakeholders play an essential role in participatory evaluation since individuals who participate in the evaluation influence all evaluation activities and outcomes. The study was conducted in the hope that evaluation practitioners and the evaluation research community will benefit from this examination of the participant selection practices in diverse settings.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2009. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisors: Frances Lawrenz and Richard Krueger. vii, 171 pages, appendices A-H. Ill. (some col.)
Nelson, Randi Kay.
An exploration of the factors that influence participant selection in participatory evaluation..
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