Participation Tools for the Pacific - Part 4: Assessment
Published: 02 May 2019
Baselining, Ten Seed Technique, Seasonal Calendar, Community Mapping, Transect Walk, and Visioning are all participatory tools used for assessment.
What you need to know
Engagement of key stakeholder groups in operations financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) promotes good governance, transparency, innovation, responsiveness, and development effectiveness. Effective engagement of stakeholder groups, including civil society, project beneficiaries, and project-affected people, requires the understanding and effective use of participatory tools throughout the project cycle. However, while one participatory tool may work well in one context, it may not be appropriate in another. This series of explainers provides a range of tools from which practitioners can pick and choose, according to different phases of the ADB project cycle, context, and available time/resources. Some tools may be specific to particular phases in the ADB project cycle, such as monitoring and evaluation tools, while others may be used throughout the project cycle, such as participatory assessment tools.
This piece focuses on the Tools for Assessment.
Tools for Assessment
Participatory assessment methods are used to work with beneficiaries and stakeholders to examine their own strengths and weaknesses. Beneficiaries and local communities should be included in assessments of their situation.
Baseline is the data that measures conditions before a project starts for later comparison. Baseline studies can be used for understanding the current situation. It provides a historical reference point for any intervention. It can be a complex multi-household socioeconomic survey. However, baseline studies can also be simple such as ranking and scoring exercises to determine the current scenario. Baseline data then can be referred to at 6-monthly or annual intervals to assess change. Baseline data is usually compared with ‘midline’ or ‘endline’ data. Rapid Rural Appraisals and Participatory Rural Appraisals use baselining.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). 2013. Baseline Basics. Geneva. IFRC.
K. S. Freudenberger (no date) Rapid Rural Appraisal and Participatory Rural Appraisal: A Manual for Catholic Relief Services Field Workers and Partners. Maryland.
Ten Seed Technique
Developed by Dr. Ravi Jayakaran, this technique is a participatory learning and action tool to enable groups of people to prioritize and rank preferences. It is a very flexible tool and can be used for a range of prioritization activities including:
- Identifying community perceptions about their strengths and weaknesses and ranking these in order.
- Ranking preferred methods or approaches.
- Prioritizing potential solutions to problems.
- Ranking perceptions of key risks.
- Identify the domain to be ranked (e.g. preferred farming practices, research questions, perception of health risks).
- Brainstorm with a group of beneficiaries the range of potential options within the domain.
- Draw the options in a circle on large paper, with one option per segment. This can also be done on the ground.
- Give each participant 10 seeds (may be stones, sticks, red sticky dots, or bottle tops).
- Each participant then ‘votes’ using their 10 seeds in order of preference. They place all seeds or some seeds on the segment that they give priority to. They may spread their 10 seeds across 10 options, or five, or two, or place all 10 seeds on one option.
- The facilitator then summarizes the findings, describing those options that received most seeds and those that receive less. This generates a discussion and debate among participants that allows for rich detail to emerge
A seasonal calendar is a participatory tool that explores changes in participants’ resources over a year or seasons, or a day or a week. This tool is a key component in Participatory Rural Appraisals. Typically, it focuses on crops, weather, disease prevalence, food security or insecurity or similar themes. It provides useful baseline data which can then be used to measure changes following an intervention.
- Determine the focus topics of the calendar. It may include:
- Prevalence of disease
- Food insecurity/scarcity
- Lower price for sale of crops
- Draw a matrix on large paper or on the ground with the horizontal axis (columns) indicating each month of the year or season, and the vertical axis (rows) indicating the topics to be explored, using symbols to indicate each topic.
- Ask the group to consider each row (topic) to discuss and agree when this occurs throughout the year. Start with rainfall, then follow with the planting of root crops, harvest and so on. Use stones or sticks or marks to indicate the relative amount of each item (e.g. months with more rainfall get more stones).
Click here to download a sample Seasonal Calendar.
Community mapping can be a highly technical process, using mobile phone technologies, global positioning systems, and spatial analysis software. Conversely, community maps can be as simple as stones and lines drawn in the sand, or drawings with crayons on large paper.
Forms of community mapping beyond mapping natural resources and physical assets can include ‘historical mapping’, which may be used to map changes in environment and the likely causes and effects.
‘Social mapping’ illustrates household characteristics: income, use of resources, school attendance and social capital, or level of engagement in community groups, activities or projects.
A wide range of processes is involved in community mapping.
Community mapping in Fiji means better planning
A non-profit organization, Community Architect Network (CAN), supports groups of young professionals to work on participatory design and planning and city-wide mapping and surveys, seeking design solutions to improve the quality of life and health of the community. Their community mapping handbook explains how people in Fiji used community mapping for the communities of Lautoka to come together and record their own situation, leading to citywide upgrading:
“In the city of Lautoka, Fiji, satellite images from Google Earth were used to overlay maps of the individual settlements, distinguishing between those on state land and those on native land. This satellite imagery helped to pinpoint existing infrastructure and that which was lacking or degraded. It also made it possible to identify areas of vacant land that could serve as possible relocation sites. All of this information was compiled onto one large map that was presented to the Lands Department. This city map functions as a sort of “virtual” land bank with regard to vacant land. In conjunction with the city map, the community members also carried out “people mapping”, identifying key skills of community residents that could be useful during upgrading, such as carpentry, masonry and mat weaving.”
“Following from this process a number of small-scale upgrading projects were launched and comprehensive site planning was initiated for the land close to the city. Unfortunately, this land has been found to be very flood prone and will not be developed. However, the design ideas and financial structures designed by the community can be applied to another site.”
- Identify the key stakeholders and invite them to conduct a Transect Walk.
- Explain the purpose of the Transect Walk: to walk an imaginary line from one section of the community or project area to another. Explain how the information from the walk will be used.
- Decide the route of the Transect Walk: aim to get a good cross-section of the community or project area.
- Divide the area into zones: for rural setting, this might be riverbank, field, communal washing area, or hilltop. For urban, it might be the marketplace, shop front, port, or church.
- Decide the spheres of information you want about each zone: for rural it might be plants growing, soil conditions, erosion; for urban it might be institutions, financial assets, weekly purchases, accumulated rubbish.
- As a group, conduct a walk across the different zones, noting findings about each of the spheres of information.
- Map the findings on charts or tables (see downloadable template).
- Analyze the findings by asking questions such as:
- What resources are abundant? What resources are scarce?
- Where do people get water and where does the water need to be?
- Where do people obtain firewood?
- Are there differences between the activities or presence of women and men in the different zones?
- What differences are there between zones, and why?
- What constraints or problems are there?
- What opportunities are there?
- What recommendations does this information lead to?
Click here to download a sample template.
The facilitator asks a visioning question to the group of participants. The visioning process can either be visual or narrative. It is important that the facilitator encourage this process to be creative and free-flowing. Encourage participants to mentally wear a ‘white hat’, not a ‘black hat’. This means not focusing at this stage on problems and barriers to achieving the vision, but rather thinking expansively about ‘what success looks like’ for that community or project or organization.
The visioning exercise can start with the current state and then move onto the desired future state, or may simply start with the facilitator asking participants to draw or explain the desired future state. For a visual visioning exercise:
- Break participants into small groups with each stakeholder group represented in each group.
- Ask each group to draw a picture that shows the current state (such as “where are we now?” in terms of where this organization or community or development challenge). Ask each group to present their picture and describe the key points. The facilitator should draw out common themes across the group presentations.
- Then ask each group to draw what they would like their community or organization or development challenge to be like in 5 years’ time if it was highly successful and if the participants had the power and influence to make that happen. The facilitator then asks each group to present its pictures and describe them in detail, and draw out common themes of what all groups would like to see.
For a narrative visioning exercise:
- The facilitator asks a question of the broader group about what the future would look like in 5 (or 10 or 15) years’ time. In the case of an organization aiming to expand and develop, the visioning question could be “Imagine that organization X is as successful as it possibly could be in 5 years’ time. What would it look like? What areas would it be active in? How would it support itself? What would its budget be? What resources would it have access to or own? How many staff would it have? What will the relationships with other stakeholders be?” and other questions to tease out what success looks like for that organization.
- The facilitator gathers the information from participants and puts it on a flip chart.
Visioning helps an NGO country team redesign its program
Caritas Australia’s Timor Leste program initiated a comprehensive design initiative in 2015-2016, following a changing country context and a recent project evaluation. The exercise began with a community mapping exercise and then included visioning activities. The team focused on two of their four key outcomes areas, Just and Peaceful Relationships, and Sustained and Economic Wellbeing. Communities members discussed, based on their mapping results, what these two outcomes looked like to them. Visioning allowed the communities to 'dream' of a desired scenario and then work backwards to establish a pathway to achieve the vision.
The re-design took more than a year, but the team recognized the need to take adequate time to complete a thorough and comprehensive program design with meaningful community participation. Once the mapping and visioning exercises concluded, the team led two three-day-design workshops. Each workshop included key Caritas representatives and key partners. Building upon the findings from the consultations, partners, and staff collaboratively build two program logics, one for Protection and another for Sustainable Livelihoods. From these two program logics, the teams designed a monitoring and evaluation framework to assesses key outcomes, intermediate, and immediate changes.
N. Eliasov. 2013. Asset Based and Community-driven Development. Port Elizabeth: Ikhala Trust and Elamanzi.
DFID. 2003. Tools for Development: A handbook for those engaged in development activity. DFID.
Victorian Government Department of Sustainability and Environment. 2005. Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders – Book 3 The Engagement Toolkit. Victorian Government. Melbourne.
Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management Toolbox. Visioning.
Some Do's and Don’ts
- Allow enough time for the use of the tools: rich learning is possible by engaging a range of stakeholders, but this process should not be rushed.
- Fully explain to the participants the purpose of the participatory exercise: explain why you are collecting this information, how the exercise will work and how the information gathered will be used.
- Use tools that are contextually appropriate: use images, phrases, terminology and languages that the participants understand.
- Be flexible: while there are guidelines for using each tool, they can be adapted as needed.
- Use other methods of data collection to triangulate the data collected during participatory assessments.
- Research and investigate power and gender relations prior to starting participatory assessment activities. In the Pacific, prior engagement with the local power structures (chiefly system) is important to gaining community trust and engagement.
- Start with a conversation/use talanoa: many Pacific cultures value informal conversations and getting to know one another before starting work or business.
- Assume that all community members have the time or willingness to be involved.
- Hold activities and workshops at times when the community or parts of the community is busy.
- Skimp on catering! Be aware that many community members may have to travel long distances, often by foot, to join your meeting. Food is a very important part of meetings and facilitated workshops in the Pacific.
- Use highly detailed questionnaires or surveys or large clipboards, laptops, tablets: many Pacific cultures are based on storytelling and conversation. Where possible, transcribe data immediately after the exercise instead of during.
- Be a FIFO (fly in, fly out) expert: the Pacific development community responds to commitment and local knowledge.
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