Balancing ethical principles in evaluation: a case study

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In recent years, evaluation societies have developed guidelines, codes, and standards to promote the ethical conduct of evaluation. The development and application of these have highlighted the political nature of evaluation and the inherent conflicts that can arise for evaluators as a result of different bases of ethical decision-making that may be held among themselves and other interested parties. This article examines examples of such conflicts, drawing on an Australian evaluation of care options for indigenous children and young people deemed to be at risk of neglect or abuse. While some conflicts were identified in advance, others emerged during the evaluation. These involved issues such as the appropriateness of the initial focus, risks to further funding, and participation in decision-making about future projects. The article discusses ways in which the conflicts were addressed and identifies implications for evaluation practice and the continuing development of ethical guidelines, codes, and standards.

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