Jmde Evaluation Essay

Background: Despite consensus within the evaluation community about what is distinctive about evaluation, confusion among stakeholders and other professions abounds. The evaluation literature describes how those in the social sciences continue to view evaluation as applied social science and part of what they already know how to do, with the implication that no additional training beyond the traditional social sciences is needed. Given the lack of broader understanding of the specialized role of evaluation, the field struggles with how best to communicate about evaluation to stakeholders and other professions.

Purpose: This paper addresses the need to clearly communicate what is distinctive about evaluation to stakeholders and other professions by offering a conceptual tool that can be used in dialogue with others. Specifically, we adapt a personnel evaluation framework to map out what is distinctive about what evaluators know and can do. We then compare this map with the knowledge and skill needed in a related profession (i.e., assessment) in order to reveal how the professions differ. 

Setting: Not applicable.

Intervention: Not applicable.

Research Design: Not applicable.

Data Collection and Analysis: Not applicable.

Findings: We argue that using a conceptual tool such as the one presented in this paper with comparative case examples would clarify for outsiders the distinct work of evaluators. Additionally, we explain how this conceptual tool is flexible and could be extended by evaluation practitioners in a myriad of ways.

Keywords: evaluation knowledge; evaluation skill; profession; professionalization

Background: The second edition of Evaluation Roots has expanded to more global coverage, but no chapter emerged on development theory in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

Purpose: The purpose of this article is initiate a conversation on filling this gap.

Setting: Not applicable.

Intervention: Not applicable.

Research Design: Not applicable.

Data Collection and Analysis: Desk review.

Findings: Two important distinctions emerged in evaluation roots in LMICs. The first is that much evaluation fits effectively on the Theory Tree as it is presented, with perhaps some nuance, but we see a collective rather than individual origin of the evaluation theory writings we have uncovered. The second is the nature of the formal evaluation work in LMICs; its practical origins are not yet formalized into full prescriptive theory.  The paper notes the prominence of external actors (such as the donor community) in formalizing evaluation practice, while at the same time observes important threads are developing in different regions of the world.  This paper proposes a way to thinking about evaluation in LMICs that is based on practice. The paper suggests a need for evaluation analysts, especially those in LMICs, to build a more comprehensive knowledge and documentation on development evaluation and, more broadly on building the field of evaluation in LMICs. 

Keywords: development evaluation; Evaluation Roots; Evaluation Theory Tree; evaluation field building

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