Evaluating participatory initiatives in South Africa: not just processes but outcomes too

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The participatory model of management for natural resources, particularly water, rapidly became a global phenomenon in the early part of the 21st century. In many developing and transition countries, such as South Africa, expectations from it were disproportionately ambitious, despite little evidence that better results in the form of sustainable outcomes would follow. There is an urgent need for evaluations that assess what can and cannot be expected from participation. Empirically based processes and outcome-orientated evaluations are likely to prove more balanced, although they are challenging and thus rarely attempted. This article proposes an evaluative framework that allows for comparison, and differentiates between processes and participatory governance and sustainable outcomes. Four South African vignettes of participatory initiatives, operating at different scales with varying degrees of stakeholder heterogeneity, are measured against the framework, and broader lessons learnt about both participation and attempts to evaluate it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number2
Early online date23 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2014


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