5.2 Reasons for Professionalization of Evaluation

Why promote the professionalization of evaluation? Reasons can be found at four interrelated levels:

  1. Practitioners: Professionalization should translate into improved knowledge and enhanced skills for evaluators to meet the needs of commissioners and to contribute to national, regional and international development imperatives like the Sustainable Development Goals. This would be achieved by answering key evaluation questions in a more confident manner and by encouraging and facilitating more reflective practices as well as shaping evaluation organizational cultures.
  2. Client demand: A professional evaluation practice would give commissioners and managers of evaluations a better understanding of what is required in terms of standards and quality as well as the attendant expectations. Commissioners and managers may have varying expectations that don’t coincide with that of the evaluator. Professionalization would make it easier for governments, non-profits, and NGOs alike to commission or fund evaluations with greater confidence.
  3. VOPEs: In a professionalized context, VOPEs would be better equipped to promote the value of evaluation and to set national or regional practice standards and codes of ethics and good practice. Evaluators come from varying backgrounds with different types of academic and professional experiences thus, without collective tooling, quality can look very different depending on the evaluator. With guiding and quality assurance principles in place, VOPEs would also be in a stronger position to defend the work of their members who have met the requirements to be professional evaluators.
  4. Systems: At the systems level, professionalization can encourage a greater interest in high quality evaluations being done to answer key questions about practice and policy. Recognizing that systems change can be initiated by evaluation, a high premium should be placed on the evaluator “getting it right”.

Professionalization creates a win-win for all. Like other growing knowledge-economy professions across the globe, it is important that there be national, regional and international efforts toward collective definitions of good practices and quality standards.

Furthermore, evaluators need to reflect on their own skills and experience as well as the importance of ongoing professional development to stay current in the application of various models, approaches, tools and methods.

Professionalization would drive greater accountability in terms of transparency, quality and integrity. It would increase the recognition of the field of trade and its attractiveness to new entrants.

Clients also benefit from professionalization. Commissioners and managers of evaluations benefit from enhanced quality assurance and a clearer perspective on what to expect from a professional evaluator.

The professionalization of evaluation poses some risk to individuals, institutions and systems. At an individual level, the improved professionalization is likely to mean that those who do not follow the standards of professional practice may no longer be commissioned to provide services. Professionalization could discourage innovative methodological designs and promote conformity and a homogenous approach. At an institutional and system level, there is also a risk that the services of a professionalized and organized body of evaluators will be discounted by institutions, especially those that are unwilling to adapt, who consider the objective evaluation evidence to be “inconvenient truths”. This might lead a professional service being avoided or undermined by institutions or systems who resist the challenge to the status quo that evaluation can present. All in all, however, “the generic risks (restricted methodological diversity, rigidly standardized training, blocked access to talented practitioners, putting the interests of evaluators ahead over those of its clients) seem readily manageable.” (Picciotto, 2011)

So, questions to you, VOPE leaders: what are the issues that a professionalization process would address in your country? What benefits would you expect to derive for individual evaluators, for commissioners, for your VOPE, and for your country via a professionalization push? What risks do you see associated with such a process in your country? How could you mitigate these risks?

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