CECAN Seminar: "We ask both too much and too little of program evaluators."
9th October 2017, 12.45 - 2pm, Food Standards Agency (FSA), 125 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6NH
You are warmly invited to participate in a CECAN Seminar with Saville Kushner FacSS, Professor Emeritus, University of the West of England.
Lord David Sainsbury recently published an article in The Guardian discussing the role of charitable giving and making an impassioned case for public action and welfare states. He closed by denouncing the current obsession with “this new thing” that is monitoring and evaluation. “If you’re clear what you’re trying to do, it’s usually clear whether you’ve succeeded or failed.”
Here’s the problem. In asking evaluators to define ‘success’ and ‘failure’ we ask too much – the range of views and criteria is too diverse and volatile to pin down; to limit the evaluator to measuring pre-specified results and to ignore life in programmes – aspirations, competitions, values, politics, humanity - is asking too little. We have, as a result, focused too hard on programme productivity and not enough on programme quality. But here we are. Over the past 20 years the field of evaluation has, arguably, advanced by shedding ideas and setting aside challenges and narrowed itself into a cul-de-sac of outcomes measurement and impact assessment – unwittingly cast itself as the outrider of public sector decline. As the austerity project nears its end, and as the country starts once again openly to question what counts as public value, is this an appropriate moment to return to Lee Cronbach’s (1980) seminal proposal to reform the field? Here is an extract from his Introduction which raises no less potent questions for us today, almost 40 years on:
“Evaluation has vital work to do, yet its institutions and its ruling conceptions are inadequate. Enamored of a vision that "right" decisions can replace political agreements, some who commission evaluations set evaluators on unrealistic quests. Others among them see evaluation chiefly as a means to strengthen the hand of the commissioning authority. Evaluators, eager to serve and even to manipulate those in power, lose sight of what they should be doing. Moreover, evaluators become enthralled by technique.”
[Cronbach, L.J. et al (1980) Toward reform of Program Evaluation, SF: Jossey Bass]
About Professor Saville Kushner:
Saville is a theory and practitioner of Programme Evaluation. Throught the 1970s and 1980s he worked (at the University of East Anglia) with a transatlantic team of evaluators developing the field and broadening its range of methods. He is internationally recognised for his work on Democratic Evaluation and Case Study approaches, and he is widely published including a number of books – most recently, Evaluative Research Methods: Managing the Complexities of Judgement in the Field (Information Age Pubs). He has led commissioned evaluation in fields as diverse as schooling, higher education, criminal justice, health services and the performing arts. Between 2005 and 2007 he served as Regional Officer for Monitoring and Evaluation for the United Nations (Latin America/Caribbean) and from 2012 to 2016 he was Professor of Public Evaluation at the University of Auckland.
**Registration at 12.45pm, please bring photo ID, your Eventbrite ticket and your own refreshments.