Managing participation in Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) initiatives

The new SAGE Handbook of Participatory Research and Inquiry is now published and available as a two-volume set. My own involvement in this over the past three years has been as a co-editor of the Participatory Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning section of the handbook which provided the opportunity to work with my long-time colleague Marina Apgar, and our wonderful section chapter authors, alongside the editors. The handbook is written by an international group of 150 authors from a variety of disciplines and covers the growth of participatory research and inquiry over the past two decades. Collectively the authors provide a reflection on the foundations of participatory research and critical practice issues across 71 chapters.

Each of the chapters in our Participatory Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning section shares insights on the use of participatory methodologies, methods and tools from within the field of evaluation. The authors share their experiences of designing and using participatory approaches, and share their thoughts on how to navigate the practice of participation within a range of evaluative case studies. The chapter titles and authors in our section are:

  • Ch. 58: Section introduction: Participatory monitoring evaluation and learning: taking stock and breaking new ground. Marina Apgar and Will Allen
  • Ch. 59: Promoting adaptive programming through Outcome Mapping: The “resilient adolescents in the Syria crisis” programme. Jan Van Ongevalle, Ana Kvintradze, David Miller, Gaël Rennesson and Jeanette Lundberg
  • Ch. 60: The Most Significant Change Technique (MSC): A case study of how MSC helps communities unpack intangible outcomes. Jess Dart, Sophie Pinwill and Avega Bishop
  • Ch. 61: Participatory Theory of Change: Reflecting on multiple views of how change happens. Marina Apgar and Boru Douthwaite
  • Ch. 62: Can voices at scale really be heard? Reflections from ten years of innovation with SenseMaker. Steff Deprez and Irene Guijt
  • Ch. 63: Ripple Effects Mapping: A participatory strategy for measuring program impacts. Rebecca Sero, Debra Hansen, Scott Chazdon, Laura Bohen, Lorie Higgins and Mary Emery
  • Ch. 64. Reality Check Approach. Immersion research. Dee Jupp

Collectively these chapters indicate the broader contribution that participatory evaluation can make to planning, design, implementation and ultimately to support more effective social development endeavours.

Note: There is a one-hour session introducing this Participatory Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning section next Tuesday 21st September at 2.00pm UK time. You can find out more and register for this Zoom-based event at

For more information

Here is the link to the Sage website where you can purchase The SAGE Handbook of Participatory Research and Inquiry.

More open access information on all of these evaluation approaches and methodologies can be accessed easily online, and a starting collection of annotated links to the methods and approaches in this MEL book section can be found on this site at the Evaluation-based methods and approaches page. Also on this site are a number of links  to planning, monitoring and evaluation  material and specific approaches such as  Theory of Change approaches already on this site, and the Learning for Sustainability site material collated here is chosen because it supports social learning and collaborative and participatory approaches.


An independent systems scientist, action research practitioner and evaluator, with 30 years of experience in sustainable development and natural resource management. He is particularly interested in the development of planning, monitoring and evaluation tools that are outcome focused, and contribute towards efforts that foster social learning, sustainable development and adaptive management.

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