RE: Neutrality-impartiality-independence. At which stage of the evaluation is each concept important?   | Eval Forward

I really enjoyed reading the note and seeing how carefully it was written, taking into consideration all views.

It is useful to see where the discussion is at. But the subject, "closing remarks" is a bit off-putting.  :-)

As Malika says, it is more useful to keep the discussion open.


There is an assumption whereby evaluations need to impartial and neutral (and that the evaluator is a guardian of this),

a tendency to equate evaluations with research (even research cannot always be impartial!):

The underlying understanding of evaluation is: a product generated by an expert who selects the perfect sample and gets to scientific conclusions.

Is this really what an evaluation should look like and be?

Shouldn't an evaluation rather be an opportunity to apply evaluative thinking about a programme?

An opportunity where different people, with different worldviews get to understand better where a programme is at, what possibilities are ahead, what can be learned?

I really feel strongly about this: we are presenting ALL evaluations as if they need to be "scientific products", originated by experts, capable of being impartial and wise.

Some evaluation (or better, some research) might well have this focus.

But assuming that this should always be the goal for evaluation in general is very problematic.

Participatory evaluations, for example, are not at all about creating one impartial view.

They are about the perspectives of diverse people together, to make sense of a situation.

They might not even get at shared / agreed findings, yet they can be incredibly powerful in injecting needed critical thinking about action.

The evaluator is not always the scientific expert... s/he can be the facilitator.

Certainly s/he then needs to think about inclusion, representation, and be very aware of the relationships, position, and power of stakeholders.

But inclusion, representation are fundamentally different concepts from neutrality / impartiality / independence (which should also not be mixed in the same bag).

It is about being aware (as much as possible) and honest about what are the dynamics at play, about the choices made...

rather than pretending that we can achieve objectivity.

Many of my evaluations, for example, are not neutral BY CHOICE.

I strive to give more voice to the people who are usually less represented.

I talk to more women, to more outcasts, to more people with special challenges.

Yet I truly think that this open choice of being biased, is much more useful than an attempt to neutrality and impartiality.

With the limited time and resources of an evaluation, which voices are worth listening to, which conversations are worth having?

Being aware and open of what are our choices is more powerful and honest than pretending we can be unbiased. :-) (and if the point is to have scientific evidence, then let's embark in research... which is something else)

Thanks again for sharing interesting points so far, and for facilitating the discussion.

I hope that this interesting discussion can continue.