Measuring the Outcomes of Engagement

In October 2010 John Gaventa and Gregory Barrett published an Institute of Development Studies (IDS) report titled “So What Difference Does it Make? Mapping the Outcomes of Citizen Engagement” which  assessed the outcomes of 100 different citizen engagement projects across 20 countries.  From these projects they identified 800 different outcomes, which they then grouped into four general categories: construction of citizenship, practices of citizen participation, responsive and accountable states, and  inclusive and cohesive societies.  Each of these categories includes positive and negative possible outcomes.  We have included Gaventa and Barrett’s summary chart (p 25) below.

While this report is a qualitative assessment, it is aligned with the literature on expected outcomes, and confirms those outcomes are occurring.  The report also provides insight on the issue of how those outcomes might be tracked and measured by providing a well defined set of categories for evaluating outcomes.

As we have previously discussed, one way of strengthening engagement processes over time is to demonstrate to your community that their engagement makes a positive difference in the life of the community.   The IDS report indicates  that the citizen engagement projects assessed had positive outcomes more often than negative ones.  Negative outcomes were in many instances tied to flawed structures for engagement.  The report’s  framework provides us a starting point for imagining how we can measure the outcomes of engagement in our own communities and either demonstrate progress or identify needed changes.   When starting an engagement process, it would be worth thinking about some of the categories in the report and how you might use them to measure outcomes in a way that helps you assess and communicate where change is needed and where progress is being made.

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