How can Promoting Democracy be Measured?

Spring Meeting of the “AK Demokratie” offered space for fruitful exchange on PrEval topics

This year’s spring meeting of the “AK Demokratie” of the “DeGEval – Evaluation Society” on May 9 and 10 focused on questions of impact measure­ment. Specifically, it was about the field of promoting demo­cracy, which is also a core topic of the PrEval project. While on the first day fundamental aspects, questions and challenges around the topic were discussed in the field in the context of a panel discussion and a World Café, the second day of the event was mainly dedicated to PrEval.

Both the project presentation by project co­ordinator Julian Junk (PRIF) and the subsequent workshops on core topics and issues of the project gave partici­pants the opportunity for discussion, exchange and networking. About 60 partici­pants from the fields of evaluation organizations, academia, civil society and re­presentatives of the responsible federal ministries were present in Berlin. Nothing stood in the way of the interactive exchange that the conference organizers had set as their goal.


Four workshops – many perspectives

On the one hand, the PrEval team pre­sented its own work and objectives, but also gave the opportunity to discuss them critically and from multiple per­spectives within the framework of four work­shops, as well as to try out approaches and instruments that had already been developed. The workshops touched on different aspects of eva­luation and impact measurement and com­plemented the theoretical exchange of the first day, which had highlighted the difficulties in operationalizing concepts such as “sensitization”, “tolerance of ambiguity” or “ability to compromise” and emphasized the need for target group-­differentiated approaches. The workshops picked up here, among other things, by considering the inter­national transferability of these concepts, but also by discussing concrete evaluation methods or support structures in evaluation.

For example, the work­shop organized by Lucy Huschle and Marcus Kindlinger (both University of Duisburg-Essen; UDE) focused on the challenges of measuring digital citizenship literacy and provided an opportunity to test initial operation­alizations. The workshop thus directly linked to one of the pilot studies that is being developed within the frame­work of PrEval and is coordinated by the UDE.

Under the title “Eva­luation knowledge for all?”, Lotta Rahlf (PRIF)

(PRIF) and Simon Müller (DeZIM) asked about oppor­tunities and challenges of possible approaches to eva­luation reports. Among other things, they dis­cussed possibilities for a database of evaluation reports – a topic that is also the focus of the “Zukunfts­werkstatt” on Evaluation Data­bases, a sub-project under the joint leadership of DeZIM, DFK and PRIF.

Inter­national experiences also played a role: Melissa Li and Sophie Ebbecke (both GPPi) discussed with the participants of their workshop how mutual learning from good eva­luation practice in promoting democracy can be strengthened. The main focus was on how international experiences and best practices can be profitably trans­ferred to German evaluation practice. The workshop thus tied in with the objectives of the PrEval sub-­project “Inter­national Monitoring”, which is coordinated by the GPPi.

The last of the four PrEval workshops focused on methods. Juliane Kanitz (i-unito) tested and reflected on innovative and creative methods such as role play with the participants in order to test their potential as eva­luation instruments. The focus was on multi­professional forms of cooperation and was based on a current PrEval pilot study led by i-unito, which is de­dicated to eva­luation in security-­relevant co­operation contexts.


Exchange, diverse needs and experiences as a basis for further project work

However, the workshops did not only offer insights into the project work and its central questions. They also provided an opportunity for joint reflection and critical discussion.

The results of the dis­cussions and the specific needs that were identified during the work­shops are now being incorporated into further project work. On this basis, support formats can be developed that are as target group- and needs-­oriented as possible. The same applies to the use of specific evaluation tools and methods: Here, too, the diversity of pers­pectives and experiences helped to identify starting points for further development in the project. The exchange between different groups of actors once again proved to be fruitful and essential for the topics and challenges worked on by PrEval.

This year’s Spring Meeting was organized by the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM), which coordinates the “Zukunfts­werkstatt” on Eva­luation Research in the PrEval project and is part of the team of speakers of the “AK Demokratie”.

About the “AK Demokratie”

The Working Group on Demo­cracy (“Arbeitskreis/AK Demokratie”) in the “DeGEval – Eva­luation Society” sees itself as a forum for the exchange of actors in evaluation research who focus on the fields of action and topics of promoting democracy. The AK is therefore aimed at persons and members of organi­zations involved in evaluations/­scientific monitoring in the field of promoting democracy. The working group is inter­disciplinary and seeks exchange with other DeGEval working groups, especially those that cover different fields of activity. In addition, the working group regularly organizes Spring Meetings in co­operation with other actors.