Can you project evaluation’s future?


Back in 2012, John Gargani (future AEA president) wrote a blog post with 10 predictions for the future of Evaluation. It spread quickly, inspired other evaluators to try their hand at the question and even triggered a presidential strand session at an American Evaluation Conference.

Now here we are, with 7 years more insight. Can you make some predictions (or projections) on what the future holds for our field?


These are interesting predictions, and they make sense to me. I particularly like the suggestion away from the word evaluation and toward social change management.

I’d love to take this question further and ask how we want to intentionally shape evaluation’s future. At last year’s Canadian Evaluation Conference there was a panel questioning what our place is in helping address serious issues like climate change. Some suggestions were: 1) a need to push theories of change and evaluation planning beyond the scope of individual projects and into the systems being worked within, 2) to take a clear and confident stance on issues and move yet further away from myth of objectivity, 3) having a focus on sustainability. I’m challenging myself to learn as much as I can and have a solid understanding of what social and systems changes are needed - and to have some part in instigating these changes.


I really like how you switched that up @RobynMcLean, it’s a much more interesting question.

I would like high quality evaluation to become faster (in terms of providing value to stakeholders) and cheaper (affordable for those who need the support). And I don’t think that’s a pipe dream.


I’d like to second the call for intentionally pivoting from the use of the term “evaluation” to something more inclusive - or perhaps generalized? The same goes for “evaluator”. What that “something” is, I’m not sure.

As an internal evaluator, for lack of a better word, the first point made in the blog post resonates with me. My role expands beyond serving as an evaluation practitioner; I’m also part-time strategic planner, part-time change agent, part-time facilitator, and part-time capacity builder. I wonder if the terms “evaluator” and “evaluation”, as vague as they are already, are actually limiting.


I totally agree that the field of evaluation is shifting its language - I like the term “social change management” you use @RobynMcLean - we often talk about measurement with clients in terms of organizational management but this makes it bigger and ties the work to the actual mission and impact.

We’ve also started talking a lot more with clients - especially those who are less familiar with evaluation or who are familiar with evaluation in a traditional accountability sense - about the concept of “learning.” In a recent capacity building project we’ve designed some “learning goals,” which we define as " specific and tangible targets you can set to improve your knowledge and ability to extract knowledge about your work and impact." So far I’d say there’s above average interest!


I really like the sound of those learning goals!