Fieldwork Experience as Cultural Immersion: Two International Students and Their Professor Reflect on a Recent Evaluation Practicum
In this practice note two novice evaluation teachers share their findings from research conducted with students who were enrolled in a theory and practicum course in evaluation. The study focused on understanding how and in what ways students navigate between the world of theory and the world of practice. The findings from this study subsequently led to a re-envisioning of the course offerings to provide a more nuanced transition between two dichotomized conceptualizations of evaluation (theory and practice), revised syllabi, and the addition of a third course.
The terms cultural responsiveness and cultural competence have become ubiquitous in many fields of social inquiry, including in evaluation. The discourse surrounding these issues in evaluation has also increased markedly in recent years, and the terms can now be found in many RFPs and government-based evaluation descriptions. We have found that novice evaluators are able to engage culturally responsive approaches to evaluation at the conceptual level, but are unable to translate theoretical constructs into practice.
In this article we provide a comprehensive review of 71 studies on evaluation in international development contexts published over the past 18 years. The primary purpose of the review is to explore how culture is being conceptualized and defined in international development contexts and how evaluation practitioners, scholars, and/or policymakers who work in international development evaluation frame the role of culture and cultural context in these settings. In this article we ask: How is culture framed in the international development evaluation literature?
Despite the recognition that evaluation is an intensely cultural practice (House, 1993) influenced by Western epistemological approaches to social inquiry, there seems to be little discussion in the literature about the broader implications of our practice in terms of highlighting the relevance (and location) of culture and cultural context in international development evaluation (Chouinard & Cousins, 2015). This is a significant Omission, particularly given the rather long history of Western colonialism in much of the developing world.
Public administration scholars have discerned a shift in the federal governance context in Canada, from what was traditionally a strong, nonpartisan public service to a more politicized, even partisan, model of public decision-making with power concentrated in the upper reaches of the political executive. We explore the potential implications of these changes for evaluation in the federal bureaucracy.
In recent years, the federal government has launched numerous pilot projects to tackle complex, localized policy problems through new modes of governance involving vertical engagement with community-based organizations and horizontal collaboration across departments. A key purpose of these time-limited projects is policy learning, with an emphasis on action research and stakeholder dialogue to inform future innovation.
The special issue is devoted to the examination of organizational capacity for evaluation and evaluation capacity building (ECB) through empirical inquiry. The compilation consists of two quantitative surveys of evaluators and seven single or multiple case studies across a broad array of organizations in a diverse contexts (e.g., east-central Ontario, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Israel). In this final article, the authors look across the collection of studies to identify emerging themes and trends with implications for ECB.