In the development and peacebuilding fields, a bottom-up approach, with emphasis on participatory approaches, is increasingly being adopted. Emphasis on implementing agendas that are based on local needs and aspirations is being encouraged by leading development organizations and research on effective social change. In the quest of getting local communities more involved, practitioners are taking participation to the next level by trying to get local communities involved not only in planning interventions, but also in their monitoring and evaluation.
Plan International released a short guide to Monitoring and Evaluation with Children which covers the benefits and risks of involving children in the M&E process. The guide is based on Plan International’s experience in evaluating field programs with girls in Togo.
Involving children in M&E benefits the children, the community, and the project when done correctly. Where children have been involved in the program itself, participation in the evaluation increases children’s sense of ownership of the program and can more accurately reflect the successes or failures of the program than if parents were reporting their children’s experiences. Communities often come together around the activities of children, increasing the community’s ownership of the program. <span style=”line-height: 1.5;”>Children’s participation in M&E can also become an act of peacebuilding itself, as children learn new skills and interact with new people, and can become empowered socially and civically, which can in turn help them to protect themselves.</span>
Certain constraints are always present when working with children and youth. More time and resources are necessary, as well as the involvement of people experienced in working with children. It is important to make sure children do not become overburdened, and to be mindful of the timing of the project with respect to school schedules and family responsibilities. Participation must always be voluntary and with the approval of parents, and children must be able to leave at any time – and evaluators must be prepared for the possibility of children dropping out.
The guide makes a point that has been reflected in other resources on participatory evaluation with all ages – if children’s participation is a formality and their participation will not be meaningful, then they should not participate, as this could disillusion children (or any group) from participating in subsequent programs and evaluations.
I hope this guide is helpful!
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