Michael Scriven, during his time as our guest blogger, suggested it was time for a Copernican revolution in evaluation. Now that I have returned from three weeks on the road, I’d like to suggest two different revolutions that might be needed. In both cases I am taking literally the notion of what is considered the center around which the other elements revolve.
Evaluation as a component of implementation and management
What is at the center of our imagined universe – the evaluation or the evaluand? I think we have too often made it the evaluation, and one of the Copernican revolutions needed is to put the evaluand in the center.
It’s helpful to hang about with other evaluators. We learn a lot from each other. But there is a risk that when we tell stories of evaluation, in formal presentations at conferences, in informal chats over coffee or drinks, or in papers and books, we make the evaluation central to the story, rather than the intervention itself. And in our efforts to improve the quality of evaluation, we risk it becoming a specialist activity, undertaken only by specialists, and increasingly divorced from the real decision making of programs and policies.
I strongly support efforts to improve the quality of evaluation and to improve professional development of evaluators BUT I think real improvements will come when evaluation is seen as an integral part of program management and implementation – something that is a professional imperative for all staff and managers. This doesn’t mean that all evaluation should be self-evaluation – there can be value in having an external perspective and additional expertise brought to bear. But evaluation needs to be a game that everyone plays.
Evaluation by and for intended beneficiaries and civil society
The other revolution is in terms of WHO is in the center. All too often the powerful, formal decision makers – managers, policymakers, politicians- are the only ones whose needs the evaluation is intended to meet.
Citizen evaluations, often using technological developments to easily collect, analyze and share data, need to be on the map. And in a later post I want to explore some recent examples of these.
What do you think? Are these desirable revolutions for evaluation?