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Thursday, September 20 • 3:10pm - 3:15pm
Evaluation and Transformation: It's the Politics Stupid

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Chris Roche (La Trobe University)
This presentation will argue that evaluation is an inherently political process and this reality cannot be ignored or wished away. Particularly if evaluation seeks to cont4ibute to more trans-formative change.
I will explore why doing so is naive and dangerous, as well as suggesting some practical ways that evaluation can embrace politics more effectively.
A number of synthesis reviews in different sectors underline the importance of politics, and the political and institutional context, in contributing to the likelihood of research and evaluation uptake. This includes for example health policy (Liverani et al, 2013), nutrition policy (Cullerton et al, 2016), transport policy (Sager, 2007), and low carbon technology policy (Auld et al 2014).
There are also some substantive explorations of this issue in relation to evidence (Parkhurst, 2017); results and evidence in international development (Eyben et al, 2015) and evaluation (Taylor and Balloch, 2005).
Amongst other things these studies note:
  • That despite the recognition that politics is important it is often underexplored in evaluation design and outreach;
  • That there are tried and tested approaches to exploring these issues from political science, organisational studies etc which could be better drawn from;
  • That there is a tendency to see politics as a problem to be got round or bypassed, rather than an inevitable and important part of policy processes and decision making;
  • Or there is a tendency to simply blame the lack of ‘political will’  as the reason for lack of follow through on evaluation finding, without any attempt to unpack why that is the case, what the interests are in maintaining the status quo, or what underpinning values, norms or ideas might be at play.
If we accept that this is the case then I argue that much of the work that has been done in the international development sector on 'thinking and working politically' (https://twpcommunity.org/) and on 'knowledge, power and politics' (Jones et 2013) could be embraced in a more politically savvy approach to evaluation, which aims to speak truth to power.

avatar for Christina Thornley

Christina Thornley

Lead Advisor Innovation and Collaboration, Education Council of Aotearo New Zealand
Christina Thornley leads the Council’s Strengthening Appraisal professional learning project across English and Māori medium schooling and early childhood education settings. She has a strong interest in promoting teaching as a self-managing profession. The appraisal project focuses... Read More →

avatar for Chris Roche

Chris Roche

Associate Professor, La Trobe University
I am the Director of the Institute for Human Security and Social Change at La Trobe University, a Senior Research Partner of the Developmental Leadership Program (www,dlprog.org) and a member of the intellectual leadership team of the Centre for Development Impact and Learning (CEDIL... Read More →

Thursday September 20, 2018 3:10pm - 3:15pm AEST
Chancellor 3