14th European Evaluation Society Biennial Conference

14th European Evaluation Society Biennial Conference

Copenhagen, Denmark

The EES 2022 Conference aims to provide an opportunity for evaluators, commissioners and users to come together to design the contours of necessary paradigmatic shifts and identify concrete actions.  In an effort to facilitate discussion four different themes have been identified.

1) Institutional shift: transforming evaluation systems

Evaluation systems are now ubiquitous and embedded in organization practices.

Within these systems, evaluation is increasingly routinized and as such can fall prey to path dependency. Evaluation activities are codified, with the expected use of specific evaluation criteria or type of evaluations (e.g., objectives-based evaluations). Evaluation systems can be powerful forces to promote evaluation activities, but they can also stifle innovation, or at times get in the way of transformation. In such systems, evaluation begets evaluation, that is ever less useful. Society spends more and more on evaluations but does not maximize the value it gets from it. At a time when evaluation could play a significant role in helping society overcome the challenges of our times, evaluation systems need a steer to rise up to the challenges of increasing uncertainty and need for transformation. At this critical juncture, the main question that we collectively ask is “How can evaluation systems avoid being boxed in by path dependency to support transformative evaluations?”

2) Identity shift: transforming evaluators

In this watershed moment for our planet and humanity, the role of neutral, unbiased and objective observers that evaluators have traditionally played is an increasingly uncomfortable position to hold. Young and emerging evaluators are a driving force in helping us rethink the role that evaluators ought to play in shaping a global transformative agenda. From sharing experiences of transformative evaluations, to reflecting on how the professionalization of evaluation can help evaluators to be part of the solution, there is a need for reflection and dialogue. At this watershed, a question that begs to be answered is: “From neutral observers to advocates, truth speakers, and agents provocateurs: what role should evaluators play?” 

3) Content shift: transformation in and by evaluation

The most common form of evaluations remains project/programme evaluations, assessing whether projects have met their objectives within specific sectors of activities. Yet, the challenges of our times are multifaceted, they necessitate multi-sectoral and coordinated responses, they require going beyond projects, aiming for systems change and transformations. Evaluators are urged to go well beyond domain boundaries in applying systems thinking and interdisciplinary approaches. Contributing to the good Anthropocene involves changing our relation to natural and human systems to foster ecological balances that would preserve life and biodiversity but also to create inclusive, equitable and resilient communities. At this critical juncture, the content of evaluations also needs to shift and the main question that we collectively ask is “How can evaluations prioritize the main challenges of our time?”

4) Methodological shift: transforming methodologies

The evaluation toolbox is getting more varied, sophisticated and innovative.

Evaluators are seeking to make the most of big data, and are working more closely with data scientists, to provide real-time evidence of what works and what does not. At the same time, the realization that global challenges call for local solutions that are rooted in context, drive evaluators to explore avenues for more in-depth qualitative inquiry and join forces with anthropologists. This methodological effervescence encourages evaluators to redefine standards of rigor and at the same time, evaluators need to make their methods more accessible to agents of change and decision-makers. At this watershed we should ask ourselves: “How can evaluation make the most of methods and data to inform transformation?”

More information: https://www.ees2022.eu/