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?
The issue of culture and cultural context – in language and ways of thinking in evaluation - was raised at EvalForward’s recent webinar on reviewing theories of change.
The role of culture in international development evaluations is not a new topic. Lots of books and articles address it. They date back to Michael Quinn Patton’s volume on culture and evaluation in New Directions for Evaluation (Patton, 1985) and Pauline Ginsberg’s critique of Western-based approaches in international evaluations for Evaluation and Program Planning (Ginsberg, 1988).
Over dinner in London recently, Bob Picciotto talked to me of culture and evaluation and sent me some documents to read. Despite always thinking I adequately considered the significance of culture, he exposed my ignorance.
Over the following days, I read and watched several sources. Two were particularly interesting: a well written piece on cultural evaluation published by the American Evaluation Society in 2011; and a clip on vimeo - easy to download - that describes culturally appropriate evaluation discussed by community members of the Lummi Nation, a native American tribe based in Washington state in the United States.
…….So to my question:
What lessons or experiences – successes, challenges, failures - have you had, either commissioning and/or in being an evaluator, in trying to ensure evaluations adequately prioritise indigenous knowledge, values and practices?