Evaluation – going beyond your own focus

March 20, 2006 at 10:27 pm Leave a comment

If your focus is on evaluating PR, training or another business competency, it is sometimes helpful to learn more about evaluation by looking further than your particular focus. Look at international aid. I just read a review of a new book The White Man’s Burden – Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good By William Easterly. Based on the book review, he raises two interesting points about evaluation:

Planners vs. Searchers: he says most aid projects have either one of these approaches. He writes “A Planner thinks he already knows the answer. A Searcher admits he doesn’t know the answers in advance”. He explains that Searchers treat problem-solving as an incremental discovery process, relying on competition and feedback to figure out what works.

Measuring Success: Easterly argues that aid projects rarely get enough feedback whether from competition or complaint. Instead of introducing outcome evaluation where results are relatively easy to measure (e.g. public health, school attendance, etc), advocates of aid measure success by looking at how much money rich countries spend. He says this is like reviewing movies based on their budgets.

You can read the full review of Easterly’s book on the IHT website.

These are some excellent points that we can apply to evaluation across the board. Evaluators can probably classify many projects they have evaluated as either of a Planner or Searcher nature. The Searcher approach integrates feedback and evaluation throughout the whole process – look at PR activities, we may not know what communication works best with our target audience to begin with, but by integrating feedback and evaluation we can soon find out.

His analogy about reviewing movies also strikes a chord. How many projects are evaluated on expenditure alone?

Aside from the evaluation aspects, his thoughts on international aid are interesting. I spent my formative years as an aid worker in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia and a lot of what he says confirms my own experiences and conclusions.


Entry filed under: Development evaluation, General, PR evaluation, Training evaluation.

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