Promoting Community Resilience in the Italian Post-Earthquake Areas: The Developmental Oriented Monitoring and Evaluation (DOME) Design as a Form of Emancipatory Action Research
The regions of central Italy suffer from important and multiple forms of structural deprivation due to the geographical distance of urban settlements from the main centres offering the essential services (health, education, collective mobility) and because of the complexity deriving from the dynamics of natural systems and the depopulation and demographic aging processes that have characterized them. The earthquakes that seriously affected these territories first in 2009 (L'Aquila) and then in 2016 and 2017 (Amatrice-Norcia-Visso) aggravated this situation, producing over 300 victims, destroying essential homes, infrastructures and public services in many villages, forcing the communities to move to temporary rescue centres or makeshift accommodation often very far from the original territories.
In this context, the theme of the reconstruction of the territories, the promotion of social cohesion and the resilience of the communities are strategic. Various policy lines are currently involved in the same territories (European Union Solidarity Fund, European Regional Development Fund 2014- 2020, European Social Fund 2014-2020, National Strategy for Internal Areas, Fund to combat educational poverty), which however respond to diversified objectives (social, infrastructural, economic) and to different levels of programming and management (local, national, European).
The complexity of the contexts and of the processes mentioned here constitutes a test of particular relevance to verify how the analysis of the effects produced by these policies escapes any attempt to methodological standardization and how it must instead necessarily adopt a more reflective evaluation approaches. In fact, these approaches are more capable of recognizing the 'emerging' character of the programs which are created as a combined effect of the agency of the various subjects involved (decision makers, staff, beneficiaries, etc.). All of these roles, skills and perspectives are the result of continuous negotiations within contexts (symbolic, regulatory and organizational) whose dynamics are detectable only through investigation procedures necessarily oriented towards reflexivity and interpretation.
The VOIS Research Centre of the Department of Political Sciences of the University of Pisa elaborated a reflective evaluation design inspired by the contributional (Mayne, 2008) and developmental (Patton, 2011) approaches and aimed at supporting the processes of strategic change in complex contexts. This evaluation design called DOME (Developmental Outcome Monitoring and Evaluation) uses the methodological tools of the Theory of Change and the Outcomes retrospective analysis in a participatory way, so as to actively include in the evaluation process the protagonists able to reveal the causative chains that really generate the change. In particular, this operation can activate form of participative learning and sensemaking (Weick, 1995) about the common action strategy, and thus empowering the beneficiaries to the adequate ownership on the logic (theory) of the program and on its evaluation (in order to give them an effective emancipatory push).
The paper discusses the results of the application of the DOME evaluation design to 5 local co-planning projects aimed at supporting educational activities to combat all forms of child educational poverty, to create cohesion in the educational communities affected by the earthquake and to promote sustainable and durable innovation in educational actions, methodologies and approaches.