The value of including stakeholders in the evaluation team has various dimensions.
- It can increase the usefulness of evaluations if their views and expertise are considered and integrated whenever appropriate. This requires a skilled evaluation facilitator and stakeholder commitment to substantial participation, particularly in analysis and interpretation activities.
- Participatory evaluation methods can be used to create consensus and ownership in relation to the development activities.
- Dialogue with stakeholders can help improve understanding and responsiveness to their needs and priorities.
In evaluation work “triangulation” is a fancy word that stands for using multiple methods to collect data, data sources, perspectives and evaluators to develop a more in-depth understanding of whatever is being studied or evaluated. Independent corroboration of a result strengthens its utility for decision making as well as extending our knowledge.
See post on triangulation … Introduction to triangulation
The triangulation dimension is not given the same degree of attention in the participatory community development evaluation literature. Participation by stakeholders can be a critical way of revealing and dealing with bias, and uncovering complexity in how the evaluated program is affecting participants and others.
Triangulation is not evaluation magic. Two common assumptions about the value of triangulation need to be examined closely.
- Does it eliminate bias?
The first assumption is that bias will be eliminated in a multimethod design. Although different methods can yield different understandings of the object of investigation it is difficult to conclude that those different understandings somehow neutralize any biases present. Each may not compensate for the limitations.
- Does it reveal true propositions?
The second common assumption is that use of triangulation will lead to convergence upon true propositions. Conflicting findings is a typical outcome of using different methods for collecting information especially if there is both quantitative and qualitative information. The evaluator must be prepared to wrestle with ambiguity creatively and to encourage others to do so. Exploration of possible explanations for differences in findings may lead to valuable conclusions that otherwise would not be included. Patton (Qualitative Evaluation Methods, 1980, pp. 329-332) recommends triangulation during analysis of the information, where different teams of evaluators or different members of the same evaluation team use different analysis approaches. Exploration of differences in conclusions may lead to additional insights about the object of evaluation.
Triangulation is not magic, but it can lead to better informed conclusions and evaluation advice.
See post on evaluation advice… Evaluation Advice