Participatory Research in Programme Evaluation: The Mid-term Evaluation of the National Solidarity Programme in Afghanistan
Mid-term evaluations can espouse participatory values in their attempts to investigate, correct and bolster the components of a programme as it enters its final phase. By design, evaluations at this learning juncture herald notable advances for the programme stakeholders in terms of technical knowledge, awareness, inclusion, and decision-making, among other people-oriented objectives. Such virtues may be fashionable but it is difficult to discern their actual development during and after an assessment. This observation reveals more than mere dissonance between theory and practice since the failure to meet participants’ expectations, once they have been raised by a mid-term evaluation, could jeopardize the programme that it had set out to strengthen. This outcome and the attendant tensions can prove momentous in all contexts but the inherent fragility of the post-war society suggests higher stakes and greater risks for evaluators and participants. Towards furthering our understanding of the complex relationship between participatory research and mid-term programme evaluations and in taking an in-depth look at the post-war arena, this chapter examines the mid-term assessment of the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) in Afghanistan, which took place from October 2005 to May 2006.