Building Toward a Consistent Program Evaluation: A Qualitative Study of Community Reaction to Development Programs in Lim?n, Costa Rica



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Environmental education has been a prominent approach to achieve sustainable development and counteract the megatrend of environmental degradation. In Costa Rica, environmental education has been adopted as an essential tool for protecting and improving the natural environment. The people of Costa Rica have emphasized an awareness of environmental issues and an ability to actively engage in environmental education and sustainable development programs. International development organizations have invested in development programs to establish or improve sustainable development. In order to understand whether international development organizations are achieving their stated mission and goals for implementing development programs, donors and funding agencies usually require that the sponsored programs be evaluated. Unfortunately, there is a growing concern that the current practice of development evaluation limits the reporting of impacts to be fundamentally inconsistent which has created incentives for evaluations to include positive bias instead of serving the purpose to improve organizational decision-making.

This research study proposed to evaluate the reaction of a community in Limon, Costa Rica to development programs using an operational framework of evaluation and logic models found in the review of literature. The researcher adopted a naturalistic case study approach intended to retain the natural context of the community setting and provide a holistic understanding of community perceptions. Qualitative methods based in rapid rural appraisal were used to collect data from a purposeful sample and a stratified purposeful sample within the population. Data analysis was conducted at both the research site during data collection and after all data was collected. The researcher incorporated the constant comparative method to determine consistencies, anomalies, patterns, and emerging themes during data analysis. Three overarching themes emerged as a result of the study: (a) community development with subcategories describing community improvement, collaboration with the international development organization, integration of individuals and groups within the community, and the sustainability of projects, (b) education with subcategories expanding on ideas and motivation, learning, and inspiration for the children, and (c) culture with subcategories that discussed community culture, the organizational culture of the international development organization, and relationships.