Original Research

Participatory evaluation for development: Examining research-based knowledge from within the African context

Jill A. Chouinard, J. Bradley Cousins
African Evaluation Journal | Vol 1, No 1 | a43 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aej.v1i1.43 | © 2013 Jill A. Chouinard, J. Bradley Cousins | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 July 2013 | Published: 02 October 2013

About the author(s)

Jill A. Chouinard, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Canada
J. Bradley Cousins, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Canada


Background: Participatory and collaborative approaches to evaluation have grown in popularity in recent years, as program contexts increasingly require more culturally responsive and inclusive approaches to addressing complex community, program and organisational needs.This is particularly the case in development evaluation contexts such as Africa. We recently conducted a systematic review and integration of the literature on participatory evaluation that included the review of 121 empirical studies published in peer-reviewed journals and other outlets (Cousins & Chouinard 2012). In that review, only 21 studies derived from development contexts and, of those, only six from Africa.

Objectives: In this article, we considered the applicability and relevance of the thematic discussion by Cousins & Chouinard (2012) to the African development context through a close-up look at research in Africa on participatory evaluation.

Method: We carefully examined the African studies and, through a conceptual critique, re-examined the prior thematic analysis.

Results: We observed that some themes did not give primacy to context and relationships which are essential considerations in the African context. Further, an emphasis on empowerment-oriented outcomes begs attention to societal, cultural and economic considerations, implication for evaluators’ roles and a deeper understanding of power issues.

Conclusion: We concluded that our thematic discussion did not resonate well with participatory evaluation in development contexts and that a much more focused and targeted review and integration of research was warranted.


evaluation; participation; stakeholder involvement


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