Participatory Appraisal is a family of approaches and methods which enable people to share, develop and analyse their own knowledge of life and conditions.  It often involves creative and visual research techniques that can provide a rapid and engaging way of gathering feedback and can be used with both individuals and groups.  These flexible, adaptable and engaging facilitation techniques are designed to ensure that everyone can join in and share their views regardless of background or ability.


Tools are typically based on mapping, diagramming, ranking and sequencing techniques.

Selected methods and techniques

a)    H-Form. This is a simple facilitation technique that brings people together to take stock of progress, understand what has been achieved, and build a consensus on ways to improve the situation.

b)    Graffiti Walls. This is a visual and interactive way of collecting and displaying comments from all stakeholders on an individual topic or a range of topics. People can read the comments of others and are invited to add their own.

c)    Timelines (lifelines). This is a way of helping you to understand the key events in the life of an individual and how that relates to the service or situation you are evaluating. This is done by visually mapping their respective highs and lows pre-, during, or post-involvement with a service or activity.

d)    Community mapping. This is visual mapping process showing which services and facilities are used, identify satisfaction or barriers, and ideas for improvement.

e)    Venn Diagram. This method uses diagrams to identify links and overlaps in ideas, opinions and perceptions. Comprised of two or more overlapping circles, they are used to describe and compare elements and characteristics of a situation and allow a shared understanding of a situation, common issue or problem.

f)    Cause and Effect Diagram. Is a visual way for people to collectively identify a problem or barrier, consider the major factors involved, the possible causes, and the possible solutions in a systematic way.

g)    Network Mapping. This is a technique to identify a person’s linkages with other people, resources, services at the beginning and then after a period of time. The focus could also be on organisations and the network of connections, collaborations and partnership links. 


  • Is flexible and can be used in a variety of everyday settings
  • Enables rapid feedback from groups of varying abilities
  • Gives people the opportunity to share views in a simple, enjoyable and highly visual and interactive way


  • Relies on experienced facilitators to run the process
  • May need more time than a one off event, and this might be difficult to fund and organise
  • Challenging and time consuming to collate materials from multiple events


There are many useful, free guides to Participatory Appraisal.

  • Participation Compass is an organisation providing information on approaches and methods to participatory activity including participatory analysis.
  • Evaluation Support Scotland has produced a straightforward guide to using visual tools for evaluation in group situations.
  • The Scottish Government Place Standard Tool is designed to help communities assess places including the social as well as physical assets of a place.