The future of evaluation: prospects and challenges.

Author:Stockmann, Reinhard
Position:Articulo en ingles


No es posible predecir el futuro de la evaluacion. Sin embargo, se pueden expresar algunos supuestos fundamentados con respecto a como se va a desarrollar, teniendo en cuenta la situacion actual, y los procesos de cambio social en el futuro.

En primer lugar se muestra, mediante una serie de indicadores, que la evaluacion se encuentra en un periodo de crecimiento historico. Despues de formular tres funciones sociales de la evaluacion, se constata que el grado de institucionalizacion de cada una de ellas es muy distinto. En la mayoria de las organizaciones gubernamentales y no gubernamentales, la evaluacion se ha establecido solidamente como una funcion de gestion. En cambio, la evaluacion esta menos institucionalizada como herramienta de gobernanza democratica. Las estructuras mas debilmente institucionalizadas se encuentran en la funcion "iluminadora" de la evaluacion. Al respecto, para mejorarlas serian necesarias instituciones independientes, con presupuesto, que puedan actuar sin limitaciones administrativas o agendas externas.

La ultima parte del articulo se centra en los retos y los peligros que la evaluacion debe enfrentar para que la importancia de las tres funciones de la evaluacion aumente en vez de disminuir.



It is not possible to predict the future of evaluation. However, some well-founded assumptions can be made as to how evaluation is likely to develop on the basis of the current situation and the processes of social change in the future. First, a series of indicators is used to show that evaluation is in a historic growth phase. After formulating three social functions of evaluations, it is ascertained that the extent to which these functions have been institutionalized varies considerably. Most governmental and non-governmental organizations have firmly established evaluation as a management function. As an instrument of management in democratic governance, evaluation is less strongly institutionalized. The weakest institutionalized structures are to be found when it comes to the enlightenment function. What are needed here, above all, are independent institutions with their own budget, which could operate freely without administrative constraints and agendas.

The final part of the article focuses on the challenges and dangers that evaluation must respond to if the importance of the three functions of evaluation is to be increased rather than allowed to decline.



The prospects for the future of evaluation are very promising. Worldwide, the state and non-state demand is booming for evaluation. The quantity and range of evaluation services for consulting and scientific institutions that they offer as well as teaching and training opportunities, continue to grow. Worldwide! Based on the motherland of evaluation, the USA, in Europe, Latin America and Asia and more recently, also in Africa.

This also becomes evident when you take a look at the recent number of reports and studies, of which only a fraction ever are published and thus highlight only the tip of the 'Mountain of Books'. Already by the end of the last century, Carol H. Weiss (1998:10ff.) had spoken of a growing flood of studies. Ray Rist and Nicoletta Stame (2006) called their book, "From Studies to Streams", taking up this metaphor. The ever increasing demand creates an offer professionalizing itself more and more.

Evaluation has become a "booming business" (Leeuw 2009:3). Even if this situation offers great days for evaluators, it is nevertheless not a guarantee that this positive development keeps progressing this way. There are also dangers lurking for the evaluation boom. In addition, the evaluation must be flexibly adjusted to changing contexts in order to meet the needs of clients of evaluation.

This article is structured as follows: First, the attempt is made to outline the international prevalence of evaluation, before then the emphasis is put on the social functions that evaluation can fulfill in a society. Finally, the following questions are addressed: Which are the challenges and dangers evaluation is faced in the future and how will this affect the different evaluation functions.


The international status of evaluation research is strongly influenced by the American motherland in theoretical and methodological terms but also with regard to topics and trends. For decades the USA is the country where the highest degree of professionalization worldwide has been achieved. There are a number of indicators of this:

In the USA evaluation is firmly anchored in institutional terms, in legislation, in the implementation of public programmes and in impact assessment. The American Evaluation Association (AEA) in the USA has the most members and certainly also the most influence. The 'Program Evaluation Standards' (2) issued by the AEA in 1989 and revised in 1994 and 2010, which were developed from the 'Standards for Evaluation of Educational Evaluations', were the force behind a large number of evaluation standards that have meanwhile been issued by other national associations worldwide. Other important efforts toward professionalization can be seen in the 'Guiding Principles for Evaluators' (3), issued in 1995, and the lively debate on the possibilities for the certification of evaluators. (4)

The development of theoretical and methodological approaches and models in evaluation research is dominated by American authors. The training market for evaluators is also most well developed in the USA. Fitzpatrick, Sanders and Worthen (2004: 41) point out that "though there are fewer graduate programs training students in evaluation than there were in the heyday of the Great Society, the programs that continue in the United States (...) have matured into programs offering unique training opportunities-training tailored to fit the reconceptualized views of evaluation that had emerged (...)". Training programmes for evaluators have also expanded to cover the non-university sector, with many schools, state institutions, companies and different national professional associations offering such courses. There are also practical courses, pre-conference workshops, the Internet, journals and a deluge of practical guides and handbooks. (5)

As we will see later many other countries especially in Europe catch up. In general, but particularly in Europe, a high degree of dynamism with regard to the development of professionalization has made itself felt in the last two decades. The European Commission and its individual departments are the strongest forces working towards the expansion and standardization of evaluation in the individual countries of Europe. Countries in which there has so far been no evaluation culture whatsoever must also gradually establish evaluation capacities in order to be able to meet the evaluation specifications tied to the implementation of EU programmes.

As a glance at the 'annual evaluation reviews' of the Directorate-General for the Budget shows, evaluations are meanwhile conducted in almost all areas of EU policy ( evaluation/documents_en.htm). The number of evaluations has also increased considerably. In the three-year period from 1996 to 1998 the evaluation project count was 198, whilst there were almost three times as many (549) in the period from 2004 to 2006. During the following three years, the numbers remained almost constant, leading to more than 1.400 Evaluations conducted on behalf of the European Union between 2002 and 2009 (EU 2010). In 2009, about 237 evaluation projects are assembled by the European Commission, half of them with an retrospective view (interim and ex-post evaluations) and only 5 per cent prospective as ex-ante evaluations (EU 2010).

By summing up the last fifteen years, ex-ante evaluations are rare (approx. 20%) while mainly ex-post (approx. 40%) and interim evaluations (approx. 40%) have been conducted. However, during the last decade a discussion on the use of evaluation--comparable to the one in USA--approached and this also lead to considerations about an increasing usage of ex-ante evaluations.

The spread of projects financed through the Structural Funds (6) has considerably influenced the development of evaluation policy in the EU's member states in recent years (see e. g. Vinas 2009 for the case of Spain). As the statutory requirements stipulate the incorporation of evaluation in the management of projects within the Structural Funds, member states are forced to build evaluation capacities. Presumably this added to the increasing demand for professionalization of evaluation in Europe and especially in the new member states of the EU.

The number of newly founded professional evaluation associations is one indicator for the increasing importance of evaluations in the EU's new member states. There is already more than 20 national evaluation societies with memberships ranging from a dozen up to more than 700 in the case of the biggest association, the German/ Austrian DeGEval Evaluation society (2012). The European Evaluation Society (EES), founded early at the beginning of the nineties, is an example for international cooperation in the field of evaluation. Evaluation societies promote the professionalization of evaluation and serve as a communication network for their members through various channels such as newsletters, press releases annual conferences and training sessions.

Summing up, it should be noted...

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