Sandra L. Bozzo

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

Evaluation Capacity Building in the Voluntary/Nonprofit Sector

Authors:
Pages:
75-92

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of priorities for evaluation capacity building in the voluntary/nonprofit sector and to raise awareness among evaluation professionals of the key issues for nonprofits that may have an effect on evaluations. There are various challenges for nonprofit organizations in the evaluation of their programs, projects and activities that include the availability of resources, evaluation skill levels, the design of evaluations and the nature of nonprofit work. Among the priorities for evaluation capacity building in the nonprofit sector that emerge from these challenges are: fostering collaboration; addressing resource and skill needs; exploring methodological challenges; and building a feedback loop into evaluation. There is presently a large opportunity to open the dialogue process in evaluation, for nonprofits to work together and for nonprofits to work with funders and evaluators to address evaluation challenges. Evaluators have a role to play in meeting evaluation challenges in nonprofit organizations by helping to find strategies for affecting change, exchanging information with the nonprofit sector community on advances being made in this area and ensuring that efforts are sustainable.

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.