Robert Lahey

Fall

Neutral Assessment of the National Research Council Canada Evaluation Function

Authors:
Pages:
85-96

Federal government departments and agencies are required to conduct a neutral assessment of their evaluation function once every five years under the Treasury Board Secretariat's Policy on Evaluation (2009). This article describes the National Research Council's experience conducting the first neutral assessment of its evaluation function. Based on learning from this first assessment, best practices that NRC intends on replicating, as well as lessons learned for future assessments, are discussed. This article may be of interest to both federal and non-federal organizations seeking to conduct a neutral assessment in an effort to improve their evaluation services and products.

Special Issue

Organizational Capacity to Do and Use Evaluation: Results of a Pan-Canadian Survey of Evaluators

Authors:
Pages:
1-35

Despite increasing interest in the integration of evaluative inquiry into organizational functions and culture, the availability of empirical research addressing organizational capacity building to do and use evaluation is limited. This exploratory descriptive survey of internal evaluators in Canada asked about evaluation capacity building in the context of organizational characteristics (learning, support structures), evaluative activity and use, and variables that mediate use. We received a total of 340 usable responses to an online survey. This article provides a descriptive account of the findings with a cursory look at differences across respondent role, organization type, and self-reported perceived level of evaluation knowledge. Results showed a pattern of moderately high ratings of organizational learning and support functions, the extent to which evaluation is being conducted and used, and stakeholder involvement in evaluation. Some differences across respondent roles, organization type, and evaluation knowledge were observed. Results are discussed in terms of an agenda for future inquiry.

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.

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.