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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Anne Cullen
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation
Title: The Politics and Consequences of Stakeholder Participation in International Development Evaluation
Dr. Chris Coryn, Chair
Dr. James Sanders
Dr. James Rugh
Date: Friday, September 25, 2009 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
4410 The Evaluation Center, Ellsworth Hall
Participatory approaches to evaluation have long been vogue in the international development evaluation community. However, despite their widespread use, there is a dearth of research on the impact of stakeholder participation in international development evaluations. Although proponents of participatory approaches to international development evaluation assert many advantages of their use, the evidence to support these claims is largely anecdotal. Similarly, critics of participatory approaches do not have empirical data on which to base their assertions. Further confusing the matter are multiple and conflicting definitions of stakeholder and participation. Some interpret stakeholders to mean funders while others view stakeholders as those who are impacted by a program. Similarly, some view participation as any type of consultation with stakeholders, while others only deem side-by-side collaboration to be participation.
Without systematic scrutiny, it is difficult to repudiate or substantiate any of these claims. In this dissertation the primary aim is to investigate this matter by undertaking a study that documents current practices and international development evaluators’ perceived consequences of stakeholder participation in development evaluation. The following research questions are addressed: Why are participatory approaches used in international development evaluations? How do evaluators and those who commission them decide which stakeholders should participate and the nature of their participation? What is the impact of participation on (i) validity and credibility, (ii) the usefulness and use of findings, (iii) implementation of the evaluation, (iv) fairness, (v) time and financial resources, (vi) social change, (vii) stakeholders’ technical research skills, and (viii) empowerment of stakeholders?
The findings suggest that participatory evaluation approaches are interpreted and practiced in widely differing ways. Despite criticisms that participatory evaluation approaches sacrifice objectivity and validity via the inclusion of stakeholders, the results of this study provide evidence that evaluators typically maintain control of the evaluation process. Donor dominance of the evaluation process is another important finding of this study. These findings underscore the importance of clarity and the need for details when discussing participatory evaluation approaches. Implications for evaluation practice and future research are discussed.