Participatory Monitoring & Evaluation
Evaluation activities tell project managers whether the mitigation measures prescribed during the EA are working, and whether or not the project is having any unforeseen environmental impacts. It is important to think about how to involve communities in the monitoring and evaluation of a project's environmental impact.
The classic approach is to recruit an expert who employs predetermined indicators to appraise the project's impact at specific points in its evolution. However, since the 1980s, it has become increasingly common for community projects in health, agriculture, or education to engage community members in monitoring and evaluation. There are even cases where children have played key roles in monitoring activity.
A participatory approach has many advantages. Once again, it is an opportunity for communities to take responsibility for an activity designed for its own benefit. In reducing the need for external experts, it lowers costs. Communities have a better opportunity to control and learn from the results. Community creativity can be tapped in designing approaches to monitoring and evaluation.
There is no standard procedure for participatory evaluation. Methods will be learned through practice. Some ideas for participatory evaluation include integrating evaluation and monitoring activities as well as planning numerous small evaluations instead of a strategic few. In its efforts to develop participatory evaluation methods for water and sanitation projects, the World Bank (Narayan 1993: 18) has found that the following key question helps focus an evaluation: "Does this process help users generate information to solve problems they have identified, using methods that increase their capacity to solve similar problems in the future?"
In meeting monitoring and evaluation objectives, any of the following simple techniques can be employed by communities:
- Group Discussions
- Scientific testing (It has been proven that communities can undertake effective testing without sophisticated training)
- Maps, drawings or any other visual techniques that can accurately depict changes
- Before-and-after images captured by audio-visual equipment
- Other methods devised by the community.
In terms of indicators, communities can and should be involved in developing evaluation criteria. The following is an example of indicators developed by participants in a community water project in Indonesia (Narayan 1993: 35). The questions are very basic but they still cover the essential factors that need to be monitored in a water project:
- Does the source look clean?
- Are insects breeding in it?
- Are there any leaves/sticks in it?
- Is there other rubbish in it?
- Is there animal/human waste nearby?
- Does it have any colour?
- Does it smell bad?
- Does it taste bad?
- Are there any animals in it?
Finally, not only can monitoring and evaluation be used to appraise environmental impact, it can also examine the community's participation in the process. Any of the following criteria can be incorporated into the objectives of any project evaluation:
- Performance of project system (i.e. quality of building construction, irrigation system or latrine)
- Human resource development (New skills acquired)
- Environmental sustainability
- Use and benefit
- Transformation of community attitudes towards environmental issues. Even though this may prove difficult to define and measure, it is still a legitimate focus for evaluation.