The value of participatory and non-participatory implementation and evaluation methodologies of HIV/AIDS communication-based interventions in southern Africa.
HIV/AIDS is an epidemic that is in one way or another affecting humankind and particularly the African continent. Due to its devastating nature, many strategies and interventions are being employed at different levels and by different groups of people to fight it. Evaluation has been a component of these projects, but few have been subjected to systematic monitoring and evaluation that provides a foundation for the development and implementation of further projects. This is partly due to the fact that project implementation and evaluation can be rendered complex by several factors, such as the choice of methodologies, donor satisfaction and the very nature of interventions and evaluations themselves. Taking a situation where the aim of a project and its evaluation is to bring about social change, as is the case with many HIV/AIDS interventions, this study sought to investigate approaches that could be considered meaningful, useful and valuable. In order to carry out the investigation of this study, the approach taken was an in-depth analysis of a few cases (in anticipation of greater achievement of insight), rather than broader survey types of perspectives. The study also concentrated on a review of the literature and on validation of documentary and interview evidence provided by beneficiaries, managerial staff and evaluators of communication-based HIV/AIDS. Results of the study highlighted the fact that community-based factors, such as education, poverty, culture, beliefs, gender, crime and age, influenced social change (with respect to HIV/AIDS) in varying ways and depending on the communities concerned. The different ways in which these factors influenced social change within specific communities were noted to have implications on interventions dealing with them. As such, an in-depth assessment of these different ways with respect to specific groups of people was encouraged in order to have a meaningful, useful and valuable HIV/AIDS intervention. The theory of active participation of targeted communities was also propagated in an HIV/AIDS intervention. It was noted that when active participation is encouraged in a project at both implementation and evaluation, taking the example of an HIV/AIDS project that intended achieving group knowledge acquisition, awareness, attitude change, skills acquisition, effective functioning and sustainability, such participation would contribute to: • Override to a great extent, limitations arising from socio-demographic differences (project locations and gender, language, age and race of implementers, evaluators and beneficiaries), in the attainment of project objectives. • Override to a great extent, limitations arising from differences in forms of evaluation (internal versus external evaluators), in the assessment of project objectives. • Create an enabling environment for higher attainment of project objectives in comparison to a situation where active participation is encouraged only at implementation (and not at evaluation). It was further discovered from this study that when beneficiaries are excluded from participating in the planning, action-planning and result-feedback stages of a project and its evaluation, dissatisfaction is experienced on the part of these beneficiaries as well as missed opportunities for useful contributions. The degree and quality of beneficiary involvement in project implementation and evaluation was seen to generate beneficiary excitement and a general sense of project acceptance: all of which was noted to create an enabling environment for the making of proper choices and decisions. Finally, difficulty in accessing traditional evaluations and people's feeling of shame and ineffectiveness was noted in the work (in the area of collecting data pertaining to traditional evaluation). This pointed to possible compromise of meaningfulness, usefulness and value of traditional evaluations.
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