The Friday Funny – the timing of evaluation

We are looking forward to next week’s guest blogs from Katherine Hay, who works in New Delhi, India as part of the Evaluation Unit of Canada’s International Development Research Centre. Katherine will be blogging on the role of evidence in informing policy and what this means for the types of evidence that evaluation should aim to produce.

This week’s Friday Funny comes from Javier Ekboir, leader of the Institutional Learning And Change initiative of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. It reminds us of the importance of considering:

  • the change trajectories of the interventions we are evaluating (see Michael Woolcock’s blog post on this important issue),
  • the timing of when we evaluate (see Michael Patton’s story in Utilization-Focused Evaluation about whether having your horse go lame might be a good thing or a bad thing),
  • the reasons why what people tell you and show you might not be accurate representations of what is going on (see Jack Douglas’ classic book Investigative Social Research)

The version below is adapted from

While walking down the street one day a [insert appropriate local politician – senator, president, Member of Parliament) is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

“Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”

“No problem, just let me in,” says the politican.

“Well, I’d like to but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”

“Really, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the politician.

“I’m sorry but we have our rules.” And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a club and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him. Everyone is very happy and in evening dress.

They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that, before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises.

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

“Now it’s time to visit heaven.”

So, 24 hours pass with the head of state joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing.

They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

“Well then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”

The politician reflects for a minute, then the senator answers: “Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags. The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

“I don’t understand,” stammers the politician. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and club, and we ate lobster and caviar,drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now all there is is a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, “Yesterday we were campaigning……Today you voted for us!”

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