Mediating role of citizen empowerment in the relationship between participatory monitoring and evaluation and social sustainability: a case of Karemo area development programme, Siaya county Kenya.
While the measurement of ecological and economic conditions remains important in understanding sustainable development, analysing of how social processes such as participatory monitoring and evaluation (PM&E) influence sustainable development can provide some strong arguments in the debate about sustainability. Similarly, while there is considerable enthusiasm for PM&E, the claim to its effectiveness has hardly been tested empirically. Using the case of Karemo Area Development Programme (ADP), the study sought to investigate the influence of PM&E on social sustainability as mediated by citizen empowerment. Karemo ADP adopted a World Vision International driven participatory programming model since 2011. This is an innovative operationalization of PM&E with the aim of leading communities through a participatory and empowering process to research, implement, monitor, evaluate and terminate a shared programme. The influence of this PM&E model on social sustainability was examined by means of an empirical analysis. The empirical investigation took the form of a mixed-methods approach and crosssectional survey design. The objectives of this study were to: assess the extent to which PM&E influences social sustainability; determine the extent to which PM&E influences citizen empowerment; establish the extent to which citizen empowerment influences social sustainability; determine the moderating influence of demographic factors on the relationship between PM&E and social sustainability; and establish the joint influence of PM&E and citizen empowerment on social sustainability. The study employed a concurrent parallel design, in which samples of quantitative and qualitative components were different, but drawn from the same population and data collected within the same timeframe. Given the small size of the population, census was applied in the quantitative component. Simple and stratified purposive sampling designs were, however, used to select participants for the qualitative phase of the study. Except for focus group discussions (FGDs) with CBOs, participants were mainly members of the community who participated in the World Vision International’s PM&E model. A total of 6 FGDs were conducted; 2 with starter group members (representing 6 to 12 members who participated in the PM&E process from 2 randomly selected locations) and 4 with 4 CBOs randomly selected from each of the 4 locations within the study area. Quantitative data from the study respondents (N = 212, response rate = 88.3%) were analysed through bivariate and multiple regression analyses. Conversely, the qualitative component utilized iterative inquiry, where data were collected and subjected to a critical reflective process of preliminary data analysis and thematic analysis followed by data classification. Both the quantitative and qualitative findings supported the hypotheses that: there is a positive linear relationship between PM&E and social sustainability (F (r = .579; R2= .335; p<.05); there is a positive linear relationship between PM&E and citizen empowerment (r = .707; R2= .499; p<.05); and that there is a positive linear relationship between citizen empowerment and social sustainability (r = .73; R2= .529; p<.05). The study also found that when PM&E and citizen empowerment are considered together, citizen empowerment seems to have a dominant influence on social sustainability than PM&E itself (r = .733; R2= .537; p<.05). The study, therefore, theorizes that citizen empowerment mediates the relationship between PM&E and social sustainability. Thus, in improving and enhancing social sustainability outcomes, the government and development practitioners should put extra effort in promoting citizen empowerment. Contrary to expectations, the study found no moderating influence of demographic factors in the relationship between PM&E and social sustainability. This has the implication that PM&E will positively predict the attainment of empowerment and social sustainability outcomes regardless of one’s demographic characteristics. PM&E, therefore can be a tool for pacifying the effect of inequality, hence having a far-reaching impact on the poor and the disenfranchised.