General Discussion for Section II: Approaches to Impact Evaluation
A lively debate centered on the question of how evaluations relate to the political process and, especially, to politically motivated program decisions. One participant argued that evaluation should not be tightly tied to political considerations, but that it was a good sign when bureaucrats request evaluation of programs. Such requests must be negotiated — that is, the official may frame the evaluative question in one way, while the evaluator may consider a different question to be more appropriate. There was disagreement among the conferees as to whether the evaluator can really be free to answer the bureaucrat’s question in a different framework. Some argued that one cannot avoid the question of independence of the evaluator from political purposes, but must recognize that evaluation must attract and hold the politician’s interest even though the evaluator can have a totally different set of questions from the bureaucrats. Others took the position that it would be impossible to operate with two conflicting sets of questions and that evaluators must understand the politician’s agenda and estimate whether his questions can actually be answered and whether the answers are likely to influence political decisions. Evaluation is not merely a technical matter. It should be relevant to policy, although not simply political in character. Unless an accommodation and an understanding of the political agenda is reached, evaluation will have no impact upon policy, even if it is technically perfect.
KeywordsLatin American Country National Program Impact Evaluation School Lunch Lively Debate
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