ITE TIG Week: Digital Principles-Focused Evaluation Manifesto by Zach Tilton

Hi, my name is Zach Tilton and I am a Doctoral Research Associate at Western Michigan University in the Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation program, the AEA representative to EvalYouth, and the Co-chair of the Integrating Technology into Evaluation Topical Interest Group. I am thrilled to be curating a week of AEA 365 contributions from ITE TIG members and industry professionals exploring the role of digital technology in evaluation.

As we prepare to consider our Paths to the Future of Evaluation in Minneapolis next month, ask yourself this: have I ever been involved in an evaluation that did not integrate some form of digital technology? No software or hardware of any kind. While I imagine there’s at least one seasoned evaluator out there currently scrolling through their mental rolodex for an example, I bet the rest of us would be hard pressed to find one.

Let’s face it, tech is already integrated into our daily lives, let alone evaluation, and there’s no app for getting the techno-deterministic genie back in the bottle. Given this, why should we spend any time and energy at all focusing on the integration of technology into evaluation, let alone engage with a week of curated blog posts from the eponymous Topical Interest Group?

In brief: the more tech is integrated (read taken for granted) into evaluands, evaluation practice, and the everyday experiences of stakeholders, the more evaluators should pay attention to tech.  

Tech, like eval, is value-laden, or value-programmed. As such, evaluators should be mindful if the tech used in social interventions, and the evaluation of those interventions, is aligned with stakeholder values and what impact those technologies and programmed values have on stakeholder experiences. Negotiating that path can be complex, but thankfully we have guides.

Many practice-based fields are recognizing the importance of principles to guide action where there may be not clear path forward, including Evaluation. Take for example International Development: the Principles for Digital Development, stewarded by the Digital Impact Alliance at the United Nations Foundation, are a collection of generally accepted standards for integrating technology into efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. They are a product of a 10-year process and endorsed by almost 200 signatories comprising major International Development donors, agencies, and organizations.

I am encouraged by the practitioners and evaluators who marshal these principles to think evaluatively about the integration of technology into their work. In fact, I’ve included links to tools and examples below that all use the Principles for Digital Development in some evaluative capacity. If you found yourself hard-pressed to think of an instance where you didn’t use technology in an evaluation, principles like these and others may just be your guides on a path to a future where technology is thoughtfully integrated into evaluation.

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is celebratingIntegrating Technology into Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Integrating Technology into Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from ITE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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