Who We Are: We are a team of three scholars working cross-continentally: Jori N. Hall, University of Georgia, Leanne M. Kallemeyn and Cliff McReynolds, Loyola University Chicago, and Nanna Friche, Danish Institute for Local and Regional Government Research, Copenhagen. In 2011 we started a conversation on differences and similarities in evaluation practice across North America and Europe. This conversation turned into a dialogue and a study on this topic.
The purpose of our study was to explore how evaluation practice is conceived as reflected in articles published in the American Journal of Evaluation (AJE) and Evaluation, a journal supported by the European Evaluation Society. To explore evaluation practice across different contexts we found it useful to draw on the evaluation theory tree typology as articulated by Marvin C. Alkin and Christina A. Christie. This typology reflects the following three components of evaluation practice: (a) methods, (b) use, and (c) valuing.
Lessons Learned: What we learned from this international comparison is that evaluation practice (as reflected in AJE and Evaluation) emphasizes methods, in comparison to use and valuing. By using Peter Dahler-Larsen’s discussion on evaluation societies we conclude that the “audit society,” (e.g., the spread of auditing practices in society beyond financial institutions) might account for the trend of a methods-centric evaluation practice across continents.
Based on this lesson we would like to invite evaluators and other interested stakeholders to engage in a global dialogue. We offer the following questions:
1) What methods are emphasized in different contexts across the globe in evaluation practice? What are the similarities and differences in how evaluators conceptualize the role of methods in evaluation practice?
(2) What are the implications for maintaining the current emphasis on methods dominant evaluation practice in local and global contexts?
(3) Do we have a responsibility, as evaluators, to uphold other types of approaches to evaluation practice (i.e., evaluation for use, evaluation for contextual and cultural understanding)? If so, how might we go about enacting these understandings?
(4) What, if any, additional understandings of evaluation practice do we want to maintain and uphold across continents? How can these understandings be maintained and upheld across continents?
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