More Criteria for Evaluating Participatory Processes

I found this “Practical Guide for Evaluating Participatory Processes” (PDF) by the International Observatory of Participatory Democracy (OIDP is the Spanish acronym). I’m not that impressed in the ambiguity of the criteria, the redundancy between criteria and the lack of reference to foundational research. Instead I would highly recommend “Public Participation Methods: A Framework for Evaluation” by Gene Rowe and Lynn J. Frewer, whose criteria I summarized in a previous blog post.

The OIDP guide was written for municipal governance, but can be applied to other levels of government and community organizations. I believe the original document was written in Spanish and the meaning of some terms may have been a bit confused in the English translation I read.

Below I copy the criteria titles directly from the guide, although the definitions were rewritten based on my interpretations of their descriptions.

A. Criteria related to the process coordination

  1. Consensus: Agreement from political groups, social groups and government related technicians on the need and methodology of the process.

  2. Transversality: Participation in planning and implementation from relevant political and technical bodies.

  3. Initiative and leadership: Government leadership is required for a institutionally valid process. A diverse group of stakeholders and technicians should also be part of the leadership.

  4. Integration in the [government] participatory system: The process should be within an established participatory system or at least be consistent and complimentary to any established participatory system.

  5. Clarity of the objectives: Establish clear expectations of results and limits to their scope. Fulfilment of the objectives.

  6. Planning and resources: Confirm a detailed plan including sensible objectives, stages, schedules, and sufficient provisioning of economic and personnel resources.

B. Participant-related criteria

  1. Number of participants: Percentage of participants in relation to the reference population. Percentage of organized players versus the reference total.

  2. Diversity: compare the demographics of those participating in the process, with the demographics of those in the reference society. Consideration for social groups that are usually under-represented (e.g. women, immigrants, disabled, low-income). Compare the profiles of the participating organizations (e.g. neighbourhood, corporate, union, cultural, sports, political) to the theme of process. Look for key stakeholders, players and organizations that were not included but should have been.

  3. Representativity of the participants (specific to organization representatives): Where organization representatives play a role, what is the democratic quality of how they recognize and present the views of their constituents. E.g. information flow to and from representatives and their constituents, use of elections, consistency between the organizations’ formal statements and that of the representative.

  4. Openness of the process: The public is invited to participate and take part in the decision-making process.

C. Criteria related to the reason for participation

  1. Relevance: The topic of the process is within the governments agenda and viewed as important and relevant to the citizens. Significance of the potential result on the government budget.

  2. Capacity of intervention by the [government] administration: The topic of the process is within the governments administrative scope.

D. Criteria related to the type of participation

  1. Participatory diagnosis: Start with a diagnosis that defines the main problems and matter for debate. Ideally this diagnosis would be participatory in nature.

  2. Capacity to make proposals: Allows citizens to make proposals.

  3. Level of participation: On an upward scale from Information to Communication, Query, Deliberation, and then Decision.

  4. Quality of the information: How effective the information channels were at distributing key information to prepare and support participants. Plurality, objectivity, clarity and utility of the information provided.

  5. Deliberation methods and techniques: techniques or mechanisms were used to avoid inequalities between participants in the deliberations. Each participant felt empowered to voice their opinion.

E. Criteria related to the consequences of the process:

  1. Substantive results: The results respond to the needs recognized in the initial planning of the process.

  2. Implementing the results: Verify the implementation of tangible results. The existence, or the study to create a body to follow-up on the outcomes.

  3. Result feedback: The participants know the results, validate them and consider the process as ended.

  4. Improvement of relationships among the players: Strengthen relationships among the participants, their organizations and the government administration.

  5. Training: Trained participants in the field of citizen participation.

  6. Building a political participatory culture: Participant satisfaction with the process and the willingness to participate once again.

Again, while you may find these criteria useful, I would recommend using the Rowe and Frewer criteria instead.


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