Jim Cullen

Spring

The lay of the land: evaluation practice in Canada today

Authors:
Pages:
143-178

A group of 12 evaluation practitioners and observers takes stock of the state of program evaluation in Canada. Each of the contributors provides a personal viewpoint, based on their own experience in the field. The selection of contributors constitutes a purposive sample aimed at providing depth of view and a variety of perspectives. Each presentation highlights one strength of program evaluation practiced in Canada, one weakness, one threat, and one opportunity. It is concluded that evaluators possess skills that other professions do not offer; they are social and ecc researchers versed in using empirical data collection and analysis methods to provide a strong factual foundation for program and policy assessment. However, program evaluation has not acquired an identity of its own and, in fact, has tended to neglect key evaluation issues and to lose emphasis on rigour. Today's program evaluation environment is dominated by program monitoring, the lack of program evaluation self-identity, and insufficient connection with management needs. But evaluation is not without opportunities — resultsbased and outcome-based management, advocacy and partnership efforts, individual training and development, and bridging between program management and policy development represent some. But first, evaluators must self-define to communicate to others what their specific contribution is likely to be. The article concludes with implications for the practice of evaluation in Canada and the blueprint of a workplan for evaluators individually and collectively, in their organizations and in their professional association.