Participatory Impact Assessment: A guide for practitioners

Andrew Catley – John Burns – Dawit Abebe – Omeno Suji, Feintein International Centre, Tufts University, 2008. Available as pdf

“Purpose of this guide

The Feinstein International Center has been developing and adapting participatory approaches to measure the impact of livelihoods based interventions since the early nineties. Drawing upon this experience, this guide aims to provide practitioners with a broad framework for carrying out project level Participatory Impact Assessments (PIA) of livelihoods interventions in the humanitarian sector. Other than in some health, nutrition, and water interventions in which indicators of project performance should relate to international standards, for many interventions there are no ‘gold standards’ for measuring project impact. For example, the Sphere handbook has no clear standards for food security or livelihoods interventions. This guide aims to bridge this gap by outlining a tried and tested approach to measuring the impact of livelihoods projects. The guide does not attempt to provide a set of standards or indicators or blueprint for impact assessment, but a broad and flexible framework which can be adapted to different contexts and project interventions.

Consistent with this, the proposed framework does not aim to provide a rigid or detailed step by step formula, or set of tools to carry out project impact assessments, but describes an eight stage approach, and presents examples of tools which may be adapted to different contexts. One of the  objectives of the guide is to demonstrate how PIA can be used to overcome some of the inherent weaknesses in conventional humanitarian monitoring evaluation and impact assessment approaches, such as; the emphasis on measuring process as opposed to real impact, the emphasis on external as opposed to community based indicators of impact, and how to overcome the issue of weak or non-existent baselines. The guide also aims to demonstrate and provide examples of how participatory methods can be used to overcome the challenge of attributing impact or change to actual project activities. The guide will also demonstrate how data collected from the systematic use of participatory tools can be presented numerically, and can give representative results and provide evidence based data on project impact.

Objectives of the Guide

1. Provide a framework for assessing the impact of livelihoods interventions

2. Clarify the differences between measuring process and real impact

3. Demonstrate how PIA can be used to measure the impact of different projects in different contexts using community identified impact indicators

4. Demonstrate how participatory methods can be used to measure impact where no baseline data exists

5. Demonstrate how participatory methods can be used to attribute impact to a project

6. Demonstrate how qualitative data from participatory tools can be systematically”


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