A useful framework for understanding ethics in the evaluation function of development organisations
By // Joseph Barnes
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Date // March 2010
Dr. John Donnelly said...
Perhaps a third column could be added under methodology - knowledge ownership and its usefulness. Where does the knowledge generated in evaluations end up? Usually with the commissioning agency while local people rarely know what was said about them, or what was the sum of the knowledge provided from their place/community/statistically selected (so called) representatives.
How useful is the sum of the generated knowledge to those who provided it?
Ownership along with the transparency of its collection surely is an ethical consideration.
12th October 2010
Joseph Barnes said...
Dr Donnelly, thank you for your thoughtful and very valuable response. I certainly agree with your suggestion that there is a strong case for considering the end-use and ownership of evaluations in assessing how ethical they are. As I am sure you will agree, too often we see evaluations that are purely 'extractive' in nature and underpinned by assumptions about the value of information (and the time taken to share it) to those who provide it.
In terms of this framework, it has a narrower purpose than helping to define what is, and what is not, an ethical evaluation. Rather, we start from the assumption that all evaluators are attempting to 'do good' and justify their methodologies with particular moral reasoning. This framework helps us to disaggregate that reasoning into different types in order to better understand some of the conflicts between, for example, proponents of randomised evaluation and participatory impact evaluation.
Both of these methodologies are claimed to be ethical by those who support them, but by using this framework we are able see that they are in fact using different types of moral arguments. These different arguments are historically grounded in particular profiles of cultural values. For instance, the 'utilitarian' justification of the randomised control trial can be traced to the valuing of individual autonomy first expressed by Kant.
In the next part of this blog I will attempt to trace some of the historical precendents of the current arguments around ethics of evaluation to reveal the underlying assumptions that we are working from. Hopefully, by better understanding this we can start to find some common ground in terms of how to approach the methodology of evaluation in an ethical way. Your point is very valid in the sense that ethics does not end with an ethical methodology. Rather, ethical evaluation needs to be part of a wider system - in terms of planning, undertaking and sharing evaluations - that is also grounded in strong moral principles.
19th October 2010
Crisoen Chipunza said...
Can i use this framework to asses the extent to which health impact evaluation studies consider ethics in the evaluations
20th February 2013