Participation is a term that is used synonymously to refer both to development goals and to development approaches.
Participation is often associated with rural communities since a lot of the approaches were developed with farmers. However participation works at every level and every sector whilst aiming to empower people and groups who are most vulnerable and less easily able to ensure their needs and expertise are represented in decision making.
The concept or approaches of participation are not new however recognition of the importance of participation in theory and practice has been steadily growing in popularity over the last 20 years, so that we now have the term appearing in a large percentage of proposals, reports and agendas.
It is precisely the extensive usage of the term to mean a variety of different things that has caused some confusion in the area of participatory monitoring and evaluation.
Participatory monitoring and evaluation (PM&E) differs from more conventional approaches to monitoring and evaluation in that it seeks to engage key project stakeholders more actively in reflecting and assessing the progress of the project and directing the achievement of results.
Stakeholders are the prime actors within the PM&E process rather than being objects of an evaluation. .PM&E is an intrinsic part of participatory development processes. These seek to involve key stakeholders in analysis, decision making and action based on local realities.
Stakeholders (directly or indirectly involved in the project) are involved in selecting indicators to measure change, defining what will be evaluated, who will be involved, when it will take place, the participatory methods for collecting information, analysis how findings are consolidated for use.
The critical feature of this approach is the emphasis on who measures change and who benefits from learning about these changes.
The team at Impact Management International has had a lot of experience with Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation and can advise on any aspect of introducing PM&E into a project or organisation. In many cases this involves training staff and something that IMI is well positioned to do.