Kaireen Chaytor

Spring

Evaluation in the Provinces and Territories: A Cross- Canada Snapshot and Call to Action

Authors:
Abstract:
Evidence-based decision-making and managing for results are terms oft en heard from politicians and senior government offi cials at both federal and provincial levels of government in Canada. But, while there is some level of under- standing at the federal level in terms of the role and use of evaluation in measuring results, there is significantly less information readily available about the extent to which evaluation is being used at other levels of government. This paper provides a cross-Canada synopsis on the capacity and use of systematic evaluation at the provincial and territorial levels of government. Authors from nine provinces and two territories provide a succinct analysis of the extent to which evaluation is being used in their provincial/territorial government, as well as a description of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for evaluation. There is a paucity of published information on this subject, but the paper uses research conducted in 2001 as a benchmark to compare the state of aff airs for evaluation within provincial/territorial governments. With limited progress over the past two decades, the paper offers an overview of findings and some proposed actions for the way ahead.

This is the advanced online version.

 

Spring

The Lay of the Land: Evaluation Practice in Canada in 2009

Authors:
Pages:
1-49

A group of 12 evaluation practitioners and observers takes stock of the state of program evaluation in Canada. Each contributor provides a personal viewpoint, based on his or her 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 Canadian evaluation has matured in many ways since 2003 (when a first panel scan was conducted): professional designation is a reality; the infrastructure is stronger than ever; organizations are more focused on results. Still, evaluation is weakened by lacunas in advanced education and professional development, limited resources, lack of independence, rigidity in evaluation approaches, and lack of self-assessment. While the demand for evaluation and evaluators appears on the rise, the supply of evaluators and the financial resources to conduct evaluations are not. The collective definition of the field of evaluation still lacks clarity. There is also reassurance in looking toward the future. With increased appetite for evaluation, evaluators could make a real difference, especially if evaluators adopt a more systemic view of program action to offer a global understanding of organizational effectiveness. The implementation of a Certified Evaluator designation by CES is a major opportunity to position evaluation as a more credible discipline.

Special Issue

Preparing Non-Profits For New Accountability Demands

Authors:
Pages:
93-112

While the role of non-profits in Canadian society has always been important, the sector now plays a greater role as more and more government services have been transferred to the sector as part of the move towards governance over government. Complementing this changing role is the need, within both government and the sector itself, to enhance accountability and transparency based on evidence. While program evaluation offers a viable tool to achieve these ends, there is a great deal of apprehension that must be overcome, as must the lack of a sound infrastructure of technical leadership capacity within the non-profits sector. This article examines these challenges within the context of non-profits in the social/health or human services areas. It suggests building evaluation capacity through a particular approach to evaluation courses. It examines the role of the non-profits, an approach to teaching, the role of funders and educational institutions in developing this capacity. The capacity to conduct evaluation has been ignored by funders who may mandate an evaluation with the unrealistic intent of it providing accountability.

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.