2011 EES Seminar – The vision and logic of evaluation

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Date(s) - 02/12/2011
All Day


Location: Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium

Participation in this Seminar was reserved and free for EES members in good standing. Below please find the programme of this one day Seminar and Invitation letter from the EES President. List of participants and presentations of the keynote speakers can be found in Member Area.

Invited speakers and presentations:
Nicoletta Stame, Professor of social policy, University “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy: Evaluation and learning in the current crisis
In the last two decades all European countries have promoted public sector reforms calling for evaluation of performance and results. But the current political and economic crisis puts a new challenge to evaluation.  Faced with difficult choices, “irresponsible” governments tend to impose linear cuts to public expenditure in “distributive” policies: trimming a 10 or 20% everywhere, no matter how the different policies have been (or not) evaluated. It is as if the learning function of evaluation were completely dismissed.

How can evaluators take up the new challenge?

There is a tendency to promote “robust evaluations” that will produce evidence of “what works”, in the assumption that governments will learn, then act: keep what works and dismiss what does not. The implication is twofold: what matters for evaluation are the methods, policies should be enforced if they are evaluable. In a clear distinction of roles.

Having realized that effectiveness of policies is not directly related to spending, a different view holds that the current crisis calls for a change in attitude: public administrations should “learn to learn”, evaluation should become part of the business of government, and it should be incorporated into a “responsible” public administration.

Evert O. Vedung, Professor emeritus of political science at Uppsala University and author of Public Policy and Program Evaluation London: 1997 (2010): Four waves of evaluation diffusion: Or is there a fifth wave around?
Evaluation is an incredibly widespread governance formula. In his speech Evert Vedung will elucidate evaluation as it appears from a European and Atlantic vantage point since 1960. Four waves have deposited sediments, which form present-day evaluative activities.

1)    Science-Driven Wave
2)    Dialogue-Oriented Wave
3)    Neo-Liberal Wave, and
4)    Evidence Wave

By using the wave metaphor, Vedung attempts to set himself apart from Guba & Lincoln who used the generation metaphor and Marvin Alkin who used the metaphor of an evaluation tree.

Reference: 2010, ”Four Waves of Evaluation”, Evaluation, 16(3), 263-277.


Frans L. Leeuw, Maastricht University & Netherlands Research Institute for Security and Justice, Den Haag: Theories in and for evaluation: why, how and what about the future?
In the Mind the Gap book that was edited by Jos Vaessen and myself (Transaction Publishers, 2010) we held a plea to link the practice of evaluation much more prominent with theoretical developments in the social and behavioral sciences, including economics. The growth of knowledge in these disciplines is not reflected in the work of most evaluators. Even when the concept of ‘theory-driven’  evaluations is used, or when evaluators label their work as searching or testing logic models or program theories, what in fact is produced often boils down to not much more than figures with arrows and boxes describing inputs, throughput and outputs while (behavioral and institutional) mechanisms are not addressed or only in a perfunctory way.

To stimulate the linkages between the practice of evaluation and theories, I will discuss the relevance of working with theories when doing ex ante evaluations, process evaluations and impact evaluations. I will also discuss how this ‘ gap’  can be explained and what can be done to remedy it. The remedy will not be a new tick and flick check list, or a new “ handbook” or something similar but……………………wait and see ………..

The video recordings of all presentations and interesting follow-on discussions together with the List of participants are online and available in the Members only materials.