Feedback for me is about a conversation. This is what distinguishes it from simple data collection. In evaluation, this conversation may occur during the data collection phase. However, what about the other stages of the evaluation process? What about a conversation with beneficiaries during design? This could be as part of participatory design or it could be about respecting basic evaluation ethics to ensure that consent to participate in the evaluation is informed. Rather than evaluators turning up only to find that they participants of a focus group discussion, for example, are quite unclear as to why we/they are there. What about a conversation to ensure that our provisional evaluation findings, including judgements, are on track? That they haven’t been subject to our world view to the point that we may have missed crucial cues or been unable to break through entrenched power relations? What about ensuring that findings, including lessons learned, are shared to ensure that beneficiary groups involved in a global programme can learn from and adapt successful practice in other parts of the world? This isn’t just about manners, ethics, respect. It is also about ensuring we have robust evaluation findings.
Could we expect evaluators to consider a four part process for engaging beneficiary feedback? The inability to conduct any of the steps would need to be argued in the inception phase- it may be a lack of resources, including time, for example. But the expectation would be that due consideration be given to these steps, in the same way as it would be to developing evaluation questions, for example.
Here are the four steps:
1. Feedback as part of evaluation design: e.g. Sharing of/ consultation on/ participatory design of evaluation
2. Feedback as part of data collection: Could be extractive/ interactive/ participatory collection of information
3. Feedback as part of joint validation and or/ analysis of information: Could be extractive or participatory
4. Feedback on end product/ response and/or follow up: Could be simple dissemination or participatory engagement for future actions.
Would this be reasonable?
NB: Appropriate methods would need to be selected in response to the evaluation questions. They may be participatory or they may be extractive. Each evaluation design will need to select what is most appropriate to answer the given question.