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An "International Organisation of Evaluation"

Position Paper of the Canadian Evaluation Society
presented to the Panel of Presidents
American Evaluation Association Annual Meeting
Chicago, 1998

Introduction

The Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) recognizes the unique value of international collaboration among evaluators and their national organizations in the increasingly «global village» of evaluation. In recognition of a need for further collaboration, the CES is initiating this position paper on the issues and principles associated with the concept of an international evaluation organization. It will participate in the panel discussions at the AEA meetings in Chicago, in the hope of devising a framework to more fully explore possible avenues of international collaboration.

The Society recognizes that evaluators and their organizations operate within, and are influenced by, a very diversified social and cultural milieu. CES also feels that further collaboration is necessary for the benefit of its members and that it is essential for the Society to play an important role in the development and promotion of evaluation internationally while recognizing our own diversity. CES has already demonstrated leadership in international collaboration and will continue to pursue that objective.

The potential of modern technology as a means of information exchange and communication between evaluators creates exciting international opportunities. Some form of international organization, moreover, creates additional opportunities for evaluation and evaluators. The CES feels that there are numerous options to help fulfill a global evaluation mission. These options should be assessed in the interests of both the members of our respective national organizations and the international community of evaluators. It is with great interest, enthusiasm, and caution that the CES enters the discussion of international collaboration.

Background

The CES believes that it is important to clarify the context of the debate. The forthcoming discussions on an international evaluation organization originated as a proposal which first appeared on EVALTALK in 1997. Several members of the AEA suggested that the name of their association be changed to the "International Evaluation Association" as a means of recognizing that many of its members were not from the United States of America.

Further discussions on the topic indicated that the term «international» had both many meanings and implications. At the same time, evaluators in other national organizations insisted that the concept/issue should be discussed in a much broader context. Hence, the concept of an International Federation of Evaluation (IFE) was created.

In the spring of 1998, the International and Cross-Cultural Evaluation Interest Group (I&CCE) felt that it should resume the previous discussion of an international organization on XC-EVAL and it was subsequently proposed that a panel of national presidents would discuss the issues associated with the concept of a federation at the 1998 AEA Meetings in Chicago. In addition, an electronic forum (EVALPRES) was established for presidents to discuss some of the issues in preparation for the meeting.

Some Initial Principles

In pursuit of a framework for the discussions of international collaboration and some form of organization, the CES strongly suggests that the following principles be an essential part of the context and deliberations:

  1. Only an assembly of a nation's organization can sanction both involvement and commitment to an international organization.
  2. An assembly of duly sanctioned representatives from our national organizations is required to legitimize and to obtain the commitment for an international organization.
  3. Any future form of international cooperation requires an identification and assessment of the international/national needs it is to address.
  4. Clear identification of beneficiaries of an organization's activities is key to any commitment.
  5. The CES considers a Code of Ethics and the principle of equity to be essential components of our organization and essential features of an international endeavor.
  6. Involvement in an international organization shall be considered an «investment» by the CES on behalf of its members and those benefits should be defined and assessed by its members.
  7. A wide range of cooperative activities allow for the pursuit of international initiatives.

Needs and Benefits

The CES recognizes that the potential benefits of international collaboration and organization are numerous for both the field of evaluation and evaluators. We also recognize, however, that the benefits and beneficiaries should be identified in a precise manner. The activities of an international organization must be preceded by a thorough identification of the needs of evaluation and evaluators in an international sense, while recognizing that the needs of members of national organizations also have to be addressed to justify an «investment» in an international venture.

In theory, many can benefit from international cooperation and/or organization. Practical experience tells us that this is not typically the case. Some members will have more opportunities to promote and/or practice evaluation. The CES recognizes that opportunities will obviously gravitate toward some international members such as academics and consultants, but not most members. Although we recognize and salute these opportunities for some, our organization feels that the benefits to some interest groups should be of secondary importance to these needs and interests of our prime beneficiaries, the general membership.

The CES feels that international endeavors create new and exciting opportunities for the members of our national organizations whose interests are varied and often conflicting. We should openly address this fact, and pursue international endeavors with a clear assessment of both the nature of needs and the likely beneficiaries of our endeavors. Consequently, goals and priorities can be more readily defined and activities/operations more easily devised and assessed.

Constraints and Priorities

The CES believes that a decision to venture into any form of an international evaluation organization requires both sound organizational and financial analyses. There are numerous, some unforeseen, financial implications to any concept of an international organization. Financial commitments are required for both a constant and contingent flow of funds to ensure the success of our endeavors. Adequate financial assessment and planning will be required to ensure that an international organization is not only viable, but capable of sustainable growth.

As we examine the plethora of international goals that we may entertain, we should also be aware of the necessary structures and operations needed to adequately attain these goals. In our deliberations, we should assess the experience of other international organizations who have pursued a variety of organizational options in an attempt to realize their goals. We must also recognize that some goals may be more aptly pursued by the enhanced activity of a national organization in selected areas - an international division of labor of sorts.

We also believe that the marriage of the evaluator needs and those of the international evaluation can be served through a variety of means. The activities may take the form of conferences and networking. More global needs, such as advocacy and joint mission, may require more complex and organized strategies. All strategies, as previously stated, should first reflect the majority of needs in our sister organizations. Second, our choice of endeavor(s) should be based on a multiplicity of strategies and appraised options for each strategy. A large international organization, in essence, is not necessary to expedite forms of international collaboration.

Any form of international collaboration, formalized or not, has to reflect a principle of equity not only in benefits, but also in costs and responsibility. The success of our endeavors, especially one of this nature, will require clearly identifiable benefits for member organizations and clearly distinct responsibilities for our national organizations. Both actions will allow members of our national organizations to fairly assess the required levels of commitment and participation. Equity has to be one of the underlying values of assessment.

With recent and future developments in technology, CES is very excited and interested in pursuing innovative means of international collaboration. Some of these means require little or no formal intervention. Other means of collaboration require highly organized activities, some of which can overshadow our national organizations and their members. We must pursue these endeavors while preserving the strength and richness inherited from our diverse characters in both context and approach.

In the CES, for example, most members are practitioners. The majority are employed in the public sector. To many, most forms of internationalization, especially in evaluation, may not be perceived as beneficial. Likewise, they work and live in diverse social and cultural settings. An international effort has to address this diversity of experience and need. It can do so by creating new and exciting opportunities in learning, teaching and practicing evaluation which reflect our diversity and respect our unique organizational cultures.

Concluding Statement

The Canadian Evaluation Society sees great promise in both promoting evaluation and further developing practice in the global village. Ours is a vision of an increasingly mature and continually evolving profession in all nations. A profession recognized for its expertise and transcending cultural difference.

We foresee an international community of professionals with both diverse backgrounds and experience whose basis for interacting with each other is a common code of ethics, a common understanding of their mission, an acknowledgment of common goals, and a confidence in exchanging expertise, approaches and information. Most importantly, an international collectivity who choose to enrich their knowledge and practice through a mix of cultural experience.

Since the world of information exchange has accelerated the ease of and reduced the cost of communication, international collaboration does not necessarily imply additional organizational structures nor their costs. If the roles of evaluators as an international community can be best enhanced by some organizational form(s), we will do a disservice to our members by not enthusiastically pursuing an international entity.

The CES will further commit to an international entity when its assembly of members are satisfactorily convinced that there are sufficient and equitable benefits for the costs and efforts required by such a venture. Moreover, there should be a reasonable expectation of attaining outcomes for the betterment of evaluation and members of our society.

The CES suggests that eventual terms of reference should include the following elements:

  1. A definition and statement of Principles
  2. A Mission(s) Statement
  3. An identification of the international needs of evaluation and evaluators
  4. A Statement of plausible goals
  5. An identification of probable structures and alternative means
  6. An estimation of resource requirements and the division of costs
  7. An identification of a means of assembly ratification
  8. A scheme for representation and executive succession
  9. An analysis of alternative means of communication for members
  10. A sample of initiatives and possible outcomes
  11. A recommended scheme for evaluation of international collaboration, initiatives and an organizational entity.

The Canadian Evaluation Society hopes that the first meeting of presidents will establish future goals for their endeavors based upon a consensus for achieving and sustaining a vision of international collaboration among evaluators. Accordingly, the CES commits itself to enthusiastically pursue this endeavor and then submit the concept and its alternatives to our members for their consideration. Lastly, we wish the forthcoming panel success and offer our thanks in pursuing this necessary but complex set of tasks.