World Affairs

I firmly believe that if evaluators are to judge the work of others, make sense of interventions in context, and influence decisions that can affect many lives and ecosystems, it is imperative that they are – among many others – widely read and/or travelled, experienced in strategy, knowledgeable beyond their own localised experience, and at some level seen as successful innovators and/or managers.

Nothing ‘works’ in isolation; connections are everywhere. Some argue quite convincingly that everything is connected to everything else.

If so, how can we view anything from a narrow perspective, based on little experience?

Are we aware of at least some of the key forces shaping societies in those parts of the world where we conduct our work?

Why do we still think we can enable and evaluate development through the use of simplistically conceptualised “silver bullets” or “best practices”, insensitive to context and culture?

How is it possible that some of us are often unaware that the design and conduct of an evaluation, or the use of “evidence” by policy-makers, are deeply political activities shaped by many, often largely invisible influences?

I have always read widely, and not just sound bites – from the technical to the political to the philosophical and beautiful. For several years I took this interest to extremes, drawing every day from 15 different media and investigative journalism outlets from around the world in an effort to understand where “the truth” lies.

This phase has passed, but I continue to use and deepen my knowledge of “how the world works” to inform whatever I do in evaluation.

Being aware and alert, within reason, to external trends and influences – and yes, not naïve – have to be part of our professional make-up. We have to take this responsibility seriously.