Evaluating participatory leadership

photo by D. Sanabria

photo by D. Sanabria

Recently there has been an excellent exchange of resources on the Art of Hosting email list around how evaluation connects to the work of participatory leadership. I hope you find these resources and reflections as useful as I have. I have separated the content based on the person that contributed to make it a bit more accessible. Check it out below.

If you want more, we are organizing an Art of Hosting Practitioners Gathering with a focus on harvesting, evaluation, research and data aggregation in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 21-23, 2017. Contact Gabrielle Donnelly, Karen Densmore, Marguerite Drescher, Monica Nissen, Tim Merry or Tuesday Ryan Hart for more info or subscribe to the newsletter on the right.

Gabrielle Donnelly


Gabrielle Donnelly, Ph.D. is a writer, researcher, and practitioner of creativity, social change, and innovation. Co-founder of Brave Space, Gabrielle integrates the reflective practices of research, sensemaking, and developmental evaluation with participatory leadership methods and the visual world of graphic facilitation. An Associate of the Taos Institute, Gabrielle teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies and lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Here are a few resources that have been meaningful for me:
The New Directions for Evaluation Journal (special issue on evaluation and facilitation)
The Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact

Also here is a resource that Miranda Cobb and I created as an introductory toolkit for community-based, participatory and developmental evaluation last year.

Toolkit - Introduction to Developmental Evaluation.pdf

"In my experience, so much of what Developmental Evaluation does is already naturally embedded within Art of Hosting practices, especially if there is a strong and rigorous harvesting strategy, so I'd suggest syncing up at this level with the evaluation team (otherwise needless overlap can occur)."

Jodi Sandfort


Jodi Sandfort is a Professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and Chair of the school’s Management and Leadership Area. Her research, teaching, and practice all focus on improving the implementation of social policy.  She  is the founder and Academic Director of the Hubert Project, a global community focused on improving professional education and effectiveness through development and sharing of multimedia learning materials. Her most recent work is under the banner of the Future Services Institute, where she is applying hosting frameworks and tools to helping bring human services into the 21st century.

We are doing lots of developmental evaluation connected to many of the hosting projects of the Future Services Institute in Minnesota.  But most are 'under construction.' 

Kathy Quick and I have done a few articles that are more theory building / basic research. One is published in a journal, another in a book chapter, and another forthcoming. I've attached them here:

Another form of harvesting that we did is an e-book from how Art of Hosting was implemented throughout our University system. It can be found here.

Rita Fierro


Rita S Fierro, Ph.D, is an intellectual artist and world traveler, who uses art, research, and healing to advocate, support, inspire, and bring forth transformation for a more compassionate and just world. Dr. Fierro is on the forefront of her field as she combines community engagement practices and culturally-responsive evaluation. Dr. Fierro co-edited the “Evaluation and Facilitation,” issue of New Directions in Evaluation journal and was recently elected to the American Evaluation Association Board of Directors.

There's a distinction to be made based on what are you evaluating. Do you want to know: how effective the program is that uses hosting? Or how hosting works? Whether the event was hosted well and whether hosting was the right approach?

Depending on your answer, I'm listing resources below. And of course, I am open to a conversation (DrRita@ritafierro.com), if you feel like you're swimming and need support.

A distinction is needed between evaluating the effectiveness of programs using participatory leadership (how effective the program is), publications on participatory leadership and evaluation (publications on the area above), research on participatory leadership practices (how participatory leadership works), and evaluation of participatory leadership practices (how well participatory leadership works).


I've been combining participatory leadership practices in evaluation for several years now and training on the topic for the past four years, including three years at the American Evaluation Association. 

Currently, one of the developmental evaluations I am conducting is of a trauma training for police officers and community members in Newark, NJ, which began with a community visioning process for the best role for police in the face of violence in community—Using World Cafe and Circle Practice. We are using developmental evaluation to track the increased mutual understanding between police and community especially on issues of race. 

More on the added value that participatory leadership provides to evaluation on my blog: Seven Great Reasons to Use Participatory Leadership in Evaluation.


I also co-edited an issue: Evaluation and Facilitation in the New Directions in Evaluation Journal that digs into these issues more deeply. If you're interested in purchasing it, you can a discount here, or contact me. The issue includes my article: Enhancing Facilitation Skills: Dancing with Dynamic Tensions.

As for the use of complexity theory in Evaluation there are two articles I wrote for Better Evaluation on Using SenseMaker in Child-Centred Research and Using SenseMaker to Understand Girls' Education in Ethiopia.


Jodi Sanfort has been a leader here and links to her articles are in the section above with her name. 

4) EVALUATING PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP PRACTICES—how well an event or training was hosted

This is the area that is least developed, and that is growing. In the above mentioned journal there is one article on an Evaluation of Participatory Leadership practices: Invisible and Unbound? The Challenge and Practice of Evaluating Embedded Facilitation 107 by Jessica Dart, Megan Roberts

Further, in researching for the journal I found four reports on evaluations of Art of Hosting, but it's mainly evaluating the impact of trainings:
Practicing the Art of Hosting Report
AOH Success Works Evaluation Report
Cultivating Change in the Academy

I hope this helps.

This post was originally published at Tim Merry's site.