This set of tips was written by Robert Chambers in January 2013, based on his 2002 book Participatory Workshops: A sourcebook of 21 sets of ideas and activities. Most of these tips are generic and apply to all types of workshops for learning, and sharing and co-generating knowledge. The list of 21 tips is included in the 'Participatory Methods' website, published by the Institute of Development Studies, which is itself a wealth of information on participatory approaches.
The Evaluating C4D Resource Hub sits within BetterEvaluation and houses a growing collection of the available guides, toolkits, tools and methods to use for research monitoring and evaluation (R,M&E) of Communication for Development (C4D) initiatives. The Hub is structured around two combined frameworks:
C4D Evaluation Framework (represented by the circle) is an approach. It describes the values and principles that guide our decisions in C4D.
The BetterEvaluation Rainbow Framework (represented by the rainbows) is a structure. It organises the practical tasks into seven categories or 'clusters' and provides options.
While the resource recommendation below discusses the resource specifically in relation to its usefulness for evaluating C4D within the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub's C4D Framework, this resource may also be of use for people working in other contexts and with different frameworks.
Authors and their affiliationRobert Chambers
Year of publication
Type of resource
The list follows the structure of the 2002 book. The 21 tips are organised into three sections: planning and preparation, the workshop, and follow-up and actions. It is accessible and fun, as well as highly practical and useful.
The resources include:
1. Reflect on the “why?” and the “so what?” of the workshop
12. Encourage multiple ownership and credit
2. Write or co-create a concise concept note
13. Set an informal atmosphere, and err on the side of informality 3. Use workshops to get to know key players face-to-face 14. Make good use of car and bus journeys!
15. Brainstorm to create the agenda. 5. Choose a fitting venue 16. Self-organising systems on the edge of chaos 6. Plan, but do not overplan 17. Declare a PowerPoint-free zone 7. Be prepared and optimally unprepared with the programme 18. Use Participatory PowerPoint 8. Be careful and thorough with invitations 19. Think in advance about follow-up and seek agreement on actions 9. Be aware of government protocol 20. Ensure short prompt summaries of workshops 10. Act early for visas 21. Convene or co-convene in your own way, and share what you do and learn 11. Identify key documents, encourage participants to study them in advance, and have them available
Workshops may be used as part of Understanding and engage stakeholders, Developing RM&E capacity, Developing program theory/logic model, Specifying the key Research/M&E questions, Collecting and/or retrieving data, Analysing data, and Developing recommendations.
Who is this resource useful for?
- Those involved in working with others on participatory learning and change
- Anyone who organises and manages workshops, courses, classes and other events for sharing and learning
How have you used or intend on using this resource?
This resource has been identified as particularly useful for evaluating of communication for development, since workshops are often a part of participatory RM&E of C4D. It was identified as part of a research project in collaboration with UNICEF C4D.
Why would you recommend it to other people?
The resource is consistent with the C4D Evaluation Framework in the following ways:
- participatory: the tips are written based on decades of experience in participatory research with farmers, villagers and other local groups. The tips reinforce all the ways in which the planners and facilitators of workshops can set the foundations for mutual learning, trust, inclusion and dialogue, stepping back to allow participants to take the lead and power.
- critical: some of the tips offer practical ways to think ahead about how to manage power differences, for example, between government officials and other VIPs and other groups.
- complexity: many of the tips are consistent with complexity thinking and approaches, which need some planning, but not too much (tip 6 & 7), and make use of self-organising systems within workshops (tip 15 & 16).
- realistic: a practical resource such as this can help to make participatory workshops easier to run.
Chambers, R., 2002. Participatory workshops: a sourcebook of 21 sets of ideas and activities. Earthscan.