Lifting the quality of evaluation #3: Evaluation associations with focus

Two things that make or break the quality and value of evaluation are:

  1. Evaluation-savvy clients
  2. Capable evaluators who know their ‘space’

What’s #3?

#3: Professional evaluation associations with focus!

The vast majority of professional evaluation associations around the world are relatively new, having formed only in the past decade or less.

Like New Zealand’s association, anzea, many are thinking hard about what kinds of services and activities will make the greatest contribution to evaluation’s quality and value for money.

What we most urgently need are professional associations that:

  1. have a clear grip on what the key capability needs are in their country/region and – more importantly – what the most pressing priorities are, for both evaluators and clients/managers who commission evaluation
  2. make professional development a priority by facilitating, brokering, and/or actively encouraging courses, workshops, mentoring, and other learning opportunities to meet those needs
  3. communicate effectively with ‘the market’ (clients and other key audiences) about:
    • what evaluation is (not just ‘evaluations‘ but also other forms of ‘evaluative work’)
    • how it differs from its cousins (research, auditing, monitoring, quality assurance, etc)
    • how to spot the difference between someone who knows their stuff and someone who lists evaluation in their repertoire but shouldn’t

Evaluation associations should definitely steer clear of policing the quality of evaluation work.

The reasons are numerous and have been discussed at length elsewhere, but the Big One in my view is the risk and expense of the association being sued by an evaluator who had lost work and/or livelihood after a negative judgment.

Instead, the best avenues for professional associations to drive up the quality and value of evaluation are:

  1. informing, educating, and empowering current and potential clients to invest in the right kinds of evaluation for their needs and to manage that investment effectively to get the absolute most out of it
  2. providing information, tools and resources, learning opportunities and support for evaluators to:
    • understand the client perspective on where evaluation work frequently falls short
    • assess and build their own capabilities, particularly in those areas that make or break the quality and value of evaluation
    • access good professional development and meta-evaluative reviews of their work

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