Guidance for Ethical Evaluation Practice

In all evaluations, there needs to be clarity about what will be considered ethical practice. That is why CES developed its Ethics Guidance.

The Guidance promotes ethical behaviour and decision-making in evaluation. It is intended to facilitate evaluators’ values-based reflection so they make ethically sound decisions in every situation and context.

The Guidance starts from the certainty that, above all, evaluators value doing their work well. It is then anchored on the CES’ three core professional values, which members are expected to abide by to do their work well.

Core Professional Values

Upholding the rights and well-being of persons, Peoples, and all of nature

To express this value, members: 

a) Value and uphold the well-being of persons and Peoples through respect, privacy, confidentiality, fairness, beneficence, inclusion, protection from harm, disclosure of risks, promotion of social justice, and reduction of inequity.

b) Protect and promote fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including legal rights to life, liberty, security, and equality.

c) Recognize Indigenous sovereignty and the protocols and governance of distinct rightsholders; address colonial and systemic oppression and resulting inequities, according to recommendations from Indigenous Peoples, including: UNDRIP principles, TRC Calls to Action, and MMIWG Calls to Justice.

d) Protect all of nature by promoting ecological justice and addressing factors underlying environmental racism, biodiversity loss, and climate change.

Seeking truth, honesty, and transparency

To express this value, members: 

a) Seek accurate, complete, and valid evidence, as defined in context.

b) Are honest, authentic, and transparent, including about their own competencies and conflicting values.

c) Consider and declare any potential or perceived conflicts of interest in their evaluation work.

Being responsible to all engaged in or affected by their evaluation work

To express this value, members: 

a) Demonstrate professionalism in their conduct, maintain independence of thought, and behave with integrity.

b) Are accountable and manage resources responsibly.

Value-based Ethics Decisions

When values conflict, evaluators must decide which are more important in the particular situation and context (see Appendix 1: examples of ethical dilemmas). To help guide, reflect on, discuss, develop, and document the rationale for their values-based ethics practices and decisions, evaluators should consider the following:

  1. How do each of the three core professional values influence the evaluation at this point?
    a) What is the importance of each value in this context?
    b) What contextual factors affect each value’s importance?
    c) What is the best evaluation approach to uphold the values in this context?
  2. What other values (the evaluators’, those of others involved in and affected by the evaluation, and those underlying the program or project being evaluated) also influence the evaluation?
    a) How are these values aligned, or misaligned, with the CES core values?
  3. What are the possible value-based decisions that emerge from prioritizing and applying the CES core values in this particular context and evaluation phase?
    a) What are the potential consequences of these possible decisions, for persons, structures, communities, cultures, programs, environments, clients, organizations, reputations, politics, the evaluation field, and/or knowledge gain?
    b) Who is affected by these decisions and with what challenges, risks, and benefits?
    c) What are the consequences of prioritizing CES core values over other values?
  4. What are the most ethically sound practices and decisions for this situation and context?

To help them answer the questions above, evaluators must discuss with others involved in or affected by the evaluation and/or seek advice in the evaluation community.