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Participant-oriented evaluation through participatory action research: a case study of a community engagement approach

Szilvia Nagy (Department of Public Policy, Central European University, Vienna, Austria)

Arts and the Market

ISSN: 2056-4945

Article publication date: 12 December 2023




This article explores the applicability of participatory action research (PAR) on two levels: on the one hand, as a participatory evaluation method for community engagement and community development; on the other hand, as a tool to link ex ante and ex-post evaluation that situated at various stages of the policy cycle.


Through a practice-based case study of the community engagement process of Valletta Design Cluster, this paper aims to illustrate how PAR can offer collaborative and continuous evaluation by facilitating social action through a practical, situative, context-bounded, responsive and transformative framework.


The study explores how PAR can contribute to cultural sustainability by linking community development with participatory evaluation, and it offers new perspectives on the applicability of PAR as a tool to link ex ante and ex-post evaluation, situated at various stages of the policy cycle.

Research limitations/implications

Although based on a single case, the paper demonstrates that the method has the potential to be applied in various contexts, as it helps to foster local ownership and to develop future cultural strategies, thus providing a base for cultural sustainability.


The novelty of this study is to link evaluation – a majorly top-down and ex ante approach – with participatory planning. PAR-E offers a continuous participatory framework for the whole European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) cycle, as well as serving as a tool for empowerment and community development.



The author is profoundly thankful for the invaluable opportunity to collaborate with and learn from the exceptional and dedicated colleagues within the Research Department of Valletta 2018 Foundation and at Valletta Design Cluster. Throughout the author’s time there, the author has had the privilege of working alongside individuals who have not only enriched the author’s professional journey but also inspired the author in countless ways. The author would like to express gratitude to Graziella Vella, Xabier Polledo Arrizabalaga, Neville Borg, Jonas Büchel, Michael Deguara, Aidan Celeste, Caldon Mercieca, Maria Mizzi, Ester Montiel Cortés, Rafael Pascual-Leone and Raffaella Zammit.


Nagy, S. (2023), "Participant-oriented evaluation through participatory action research: a case study of a community engagement approach", Arts and the Market, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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