The importance of values for substantiating evaluative conclusions
The comments shared in response to the earlier post, Culturally Competent Needs Assessment By An “Outsider” raise issues that are critical to the discipline of evaluation. Two things come to mind; a) reflections on how we define evaluation theory, and practice within the context of culture; b) the role of values and valuing in evaluation.
K. Fisher raised some critical questions about how we define evaluative culture in evaluation. It made me realize how we tend to think about culture, values, norms when we are about to evaluate a program, rather than ensure these things become an integral part of our ‘evaluation roots’; i.e., it needs to become part of the academic curriculum/syllabus. Without cultural competence, evaluators find themselves with quick ‘band aid’ solutions “to make the evaluation seem proficient to address cultural contexts issues”. There is a great need for scholarship in this area, particularly by evaluation institutions.
Addressing the issue of culture at the back end is not only unfair to the client, but also demeaning to the communities impacted by the program. Thanks David Earle, Jane and Patricia for putting a spin on this discussion. While diverse cultures exhibit ‘their own’ evaluative thinking, it is important to recognize these differences and learn from them.
The spin weaved here also touched on an important aspect of evaluation; i.e., the values and valuing. What is it that the community values? Is it intrinsically valuable and or desirable? What are the local norms, and the related dynamics that give rise to positive and or negative impacts to the evaluand? Whose reflections are we hearing? Which voices are not being heard? What is it that is not being said, and yet, it seems to matter?
If Betty LaDuke had not asked the insiders to help her ‘listen to their values, ‘speak their values language’ and ‘explore the deeper meanings behind the values’ that shape the day to day discussions, the artist would have walked away with unsubstantiated evaluative conclusions. Inclusion of values and how they were identified in the actual evaluation process has a bearing on the relevance and validity of the evaluation results.
Integration of ‘values’ and the relevant data collected during the process provided the basis on which the needs assessment (and its related components/ dimensions) had been judged as good or bad (merit), worthwhile or worthless (worth), and (significance).
Thanks for the suggestions My next post will discuss the dangers of evaluation that fails to ground itself in local realities.