Blaming outward, reflecting inward

2012 EEEN Forum / Evaluation

Matt Keene, US Environmental Protection Agency

Evaluators often discuss the challenges faced by the field of evaluation. In our writing (and over our beers) we lament that evaluations are not used, that evaluation is too infrequent, that evidence is misused, that clients are too apprehensive, that budgets are too small, time is too short, data is inadequate and so on. To address the challenges, we recommend, repeatedly, that policies change, programs change, attitudes change, cultures change, etc. The collection of obstacles preventing more efficient progress toward effectiveness are often perceived as external to the field, pressing upon our work from the outside.

Might we look at it another way? In reflecting back upon the field of evaluation – the practice, theory and policy – what do we see? Are there shortcomings and barriers that we create and fortify that separate us from realising the role that we envision for evaluation?  What are the problems with our theory, our practice, our policies and our attitudes? What is our role in clarifying the importance of evaluation? What needs to change in our communications, in our education and in the evidence defining evaluation’s importance? What needs to change in us? Participants in this open discussion will tussle, tangle, grapple, wrestle and struggle with the uncomfortable reality that it’s not the responsibility of others to embrace evaluation; the onus is on the evaluators to give them something to value.

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