RE: The pervasive power of western evaluation culture: how and in what ways do you wrestle with ensuring evaluation is culturally appropriate and beneficial to those who legitimise development aid? | Eval Forward

Dear all,

Thanks for sharing the illuminating experience. I have a minor input based on my experience.

The value of culture in evaluation is less discussed and practiced discourse among the development researchers, professionals, academics and funders. Due to various reasons, cultural issues are less represented in the evaluation design and subsequent phases. While designing an undertaking evaluation, most of the inquiry and observation methods/tools do not consider the context -space and time and are mainly focused on the results and their associated indicators. This is more important when dealing with socio-developmental issues. The recent approach of using the Theory of Change, in principle, covers the wider spectrum of the context but an understanding of people and their practices (=culture) have not been an important part of the analysis. For example – in a group of people (let’s take the example of the ‘hill Bramin’ in Nepal) women do not generally say their husband’s name, do not shake hands (they have a different way of greetings when they meet people) and may not speak with a man frankly from outside. In addition, family roles of men and women are also determined by the social systems/culture on which they are used for generations which may be strange for people from the West. Some communities worship their god before they initiate project-related activities or complete the project tasks. There are cases where development interventions are designed without considering the cultural aspects (such as demolishing temples or sacred or religious places of certain communities to construct a road that directly affects their culture). These are some examples. In this case, an evaluator without understanding the local context and culture – s/he might understand different ways and overall evaluation findings might be different. I feel having a local expert (who knows the culture) and a respectful conversation with the communities are two strategies I have used in my evaluations.

Have a lovely weekend.

Best regards,