Saturday, 2 March 2013

Rigor = being honest about the limits

This is another instalment of my "moans about poor evaluation practice" series, triggered by a recent review of evaluation reports in the complex field of governance and human rights.
One of the reports I read used a "traffic light" system: for each evaluation question, the authors decided whether what they found was good ("green light"), in need of some improvement ("yellow light"), or bad ("red light"). That in itself made me feel a bit queasy. Does a "red light" mean an organisation has to drop everything and stop operating? Does that form of visualisation pay any respect to the efforts people put into their work? Yes, evaluators are there to assess the "value" of what they are supposed to evaluate, but does that entitle us to make pronouncements as to what must stop and what can go on? I am not sure.