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 Guidance for Ethical Evaluation Practice.

The Guidance promotes ethical behaviour and decision-making in evaluation. It is intended to foster continuing improvement in the theory, practice and use of evaluation by raising awareness and discussion of ethical issues that arise in the course of an evaluation.

The Guidance starts from certainty that, above all, evaluators value doing their work well. It is then anchored on the three core professional values that CES believes it members share, and enjoins them to uphold and enact in order to do their work well.

Core Professional Values


Rights and well-being of persons and peoples

In line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, CES members value the protection and promotion of the fundamental rights and freedoms including legal rights such as the right to life, liberty, security and equality, as well as rights pertaining to the well-being of persons and peoples and their rights to improve their situations. This includes notions of respect, privacy, confidentiality, protection from harm, disclosure of risks, beneficence, social justice, inclusion, reducing inequity and fairness.

Truth-seeking, honesty and transparency

CES members value the seeking of accurate, complete and valid evidence, as these are defined in context. They also value self-honesty and authenticity, including about their own competencies and conflicting values, as well as transparency towards all others in their evaluation relationships. This means that members have a duty to consider and declare real, potential or potentially-perceived conflicts of interest in their evaluation work.

Responsibility to stakeholders and society

Considering their role in service to evaluation stakeholders (including their direct clients) and their commitment to evaluation as a contributor to a better world, CES members value professionalism in their conduct, grounded in principles of independence of thought and integrity of behaviour. They value accountability, responsible resource management and stewardship.

Value-based Ethics Decisions

Throughout all evaluation activity — from initial engagement to design, planning, execution, final reporting and utilization — these three core professional values can be used as the basis of decisions about ethical considerations. To help guide, discuss and develop the rationale for their values-based ethics decisions, evaluators should consider:

  • How is each of the core values at play at this point in the evaluation? What is their importance in this context? What contextual factors affect their importance?
  • What other values are also at play? What are the values of the evaluators, those of stakeholders and those underlying the program or project being evaluated? How are these aligned or not with the core values?
  • What are the possible values-based decisions that emerge from application of the core values in this particular context and evaluation phase? What are the alternative decisions that emerge from alternate interpretations of the values in this context? What are the potential consequences of these alternate decisions on persons, on structures, on communities, on cultures, on programs, on environments, on clients, on organizations, for reputations, on politics, for the evaluation field and/or for knowledge gain? Who is affected by these decisions, with what challenges, risks and benefits?
  • What are the most ethically sound decisions for this situation and context?
  • Should I seek advice in the evaluation community or discuss with evaluation stakeholders to answer any of the above questions?

In practice, making ethically sound decisions will require balancing conflicting/alternate interpretations of the core professional values (and their links to evaluation standards and evaluator competencies) in light of the particulars of the context.

In cases where others’ values conflict with the CES core professional values, members are invited to reflect on the reasons for the conflicts and on the impacts of privileging CES values on their practice, on evaluation stakeholders, on the evaluation community, on the credibility of the profession and on society.