Principles of Genuine Participatory Inquiry

Evaluator Michael Quinn Patton offers the principles of a participatory evaluation in his book, Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods.


The inquiry process involves participants in learning inquiry logic and skills, for example, the nature of evidence, establishing priorities, focusing questions, interpreting data, data-based decision making, and connecting process to outcomes.

Participants in the process own the inquiry. They are involved authentically in making focus and design decisions. They draw and apply conclusions. Participation is real, not token.

Participants work together as a group and the inquiry facilitator supports group cohesion and collective inquiry.

All aspects of the inquiry, from research focus to data analysis, are undertaken in ways that are understandable and meaningful to participants.

The researcher or evaluation acts as a facilitator, collaborator, and learning resource; participants are coequal.

The inquiry facilitator recognizes and values participants’ perspective and expertise and works to help participants recognize and value their own and each other’s expertise.

Status and power differences between the inquiry facilitator and participants are minimized, as much as possible.