PAs - Why target groups



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​Why focus on​ the active involvement of target gro​ups?​

Various reasons speak for integrating target groups in an active role in assessing intervention contexts and results – making their views more relevant for the design and implementation of programmes and projects. 

1. Firstly,​​ involvi​ng the people targeted by the intervention means taking the SDC’s missions and value​​s seriously.

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Participatory assessment helps implement the SDC’s princi​ples.
Alleviating poverty and contributing to sustainable development in accordance with the 2030 Agenda are at the core of the SDC’s international cooperation mandate. The SDC is committe​d to leaving no one behind, and the benefits of the poor and other vulner​able and marginalised groups are key indicators of the success of development cooperation and humanitarian aid.
Another key SDC approach is empowerment and participation – enabling target groups to make their voices heard and take their lives in their own hands. Instead of talking about people and discussing among experts and managers a​bout the effects that our programmes may have on them, the PA aspires to talk and listen to them. 

While the PA can help strengthen the ownership of target groups in the intervention at stake, its empowering effects may have a wider impact on the context and social relations, building social capital beyond the intervention at stake. 

Finally, the PA is also about accepting and respecting diversity. Targeted groups are never homogenous – some may benefit from the intervention, others less or not at all. A variety of original voices can give a more complete picture and understanding about the reasons for this diversity – compared to our own views, the views of representatives or experts talking for and about them.​


2. Secondly, involving targeted groups means working more systemically and effectively, by listening to authentic views, collecting primary data and relevant information, identifying and responding to real needs, addressing practical obstacles for and contributing to their empowerment.​​

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​​Participator​y approaches help adopt a systemic and responsive approach.
When analysing the country or thematic context, when designing a programme or assessing the results, a systemic approach is important. Among other things, it means that the context, the programme design and its results should be looked at from various perspectives. While the views of a variety of stakeholders must be taken to account to get the full picture, the perspective of the targeted groups is particularly relevant. 

Knowing their perspective helps us assess their needs and interests and taking into account their values adequately, in real time, and be responsive to their needs. 

​This is based on implicit key assumptions: those targeted have a better understanding of their own realities, what kind of intervention is useful to them and what prevents them from benefitting from an intervention. Target groups who are empowered to reflect on their needs and contribute to the intervention’s design are much more likely to reach agreed objectives than simple users or recipients who may not feel any ownership. 

Their direct involvement will help improve the quality of our intervention, make it more responsive, accountable and produce more effective results.


​ 3. Thirdly, involving target groups helps us further develop – or confirm – our logic of intervention or theory of change (ToC). ​Do they share our views of how change happens, and how we can support change? ​

​​Learn more​: thinking out of the expert box 

​​Thinking out of the Expert Box.

The reality that a programme is designed for can be perceived very differently. For example, the programme designers, funders, experts and managers might see great potential for a programme for introducing a new means of cultivation – while the farmers may have experience that speaks against it, or perceive major obstacles that external experts are not able to see.

Going beyond expert analysis and listening to the farmers gives a better picture of the realities of the context, adding real narratives to the causal logic of the logframe, ways of working and overcoming obstacles. This may challenge, confirm or help adapt the logic of intervention or theories of change.


Interventions may target a variety of individuals, groups and institutions who are expected to benefit from the interventions in various ways. Directly or indirectly, they are all expected to benefit and their views can contribute to improving our understanding of the context and the assessment of results. 

Learn more: ​d​ifferent meanings of the term ‘beneficiaries’​:

Different meanings of the term ‘beneficiaries’
Some stakeholders use ‘benefic​iaries’ or ‘primary stakeholders’ to mean ‘end users’, the people that ultimately benefit from the interventions, even if these are directly targeting institutions or groups.

Some use ‘beneficiaries’ to refer to a broad target group (e.g. ‘the poor’), while others refer to more specific target groups or the group that the logframe addresses directly (e.g. the poor households in a certain village). 


Integrating the intended target groups’ views is a working principle and attitude which is useful at various levels and various operational stages throughout the project management​ cycle (context analysis, design and planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation). However, the PA methodology (as described on the following pages) is most commonly used to analyse intervention results. ​

​​L​earn more: usefulness of participatory approach throughout the programme/project cycle​:

Useful at various levels​
A participatory approach, focusing on the views of target groups, can be used in various situations and processes at different stages of programme management for example:

… when assessing the relevant over​all context of a country, or when analysing a problem: asking the views of a variety of stakeholders and potential target groups

… when designing and implementing a specific programme or project: reflecting on intervention logics together with intended target groups' views along the way, establishing spaces for joint learning (e.g. sounding boards, workshops, interviews, monitoring activities,…)

… when defining and conveying messages in policy dialogue with power holders: explicitly referring to and including the perspectives of specific groups and individuals.



… when analysing results of an intervention: did the intervention bring about change for the target groups? How to improve on results and outcomes? 
… when thinking about remote management approaches: How can beneficiaries contribute to shaping the project/programme and evaluating its results?

Beyond its traditional focus on programme management, a participatory approach can also be useful to help with conflict analysis and to develop the nexus between development programmes, humanitarian aid and peace building. 


To get started with your participatory assessment, contact us:
Stephanie Guha, stephanie.guha(at)   
Ursula König, uk(at)