THE CONTEXT OF EVALUATION RESEARCH
Evaluation is much more than a technical activity. It is also a political one. Evaluations cannot influence decision- making processes unless those undertaking them recognize the need to orient their efforts toward maximizing the policy utility of their evaluation activities. To some extent this is true in all evaluations, including those providing assessments of technical aspects of social interventions. There is another contribution of evaluations: to build up a knowledge base on how (and how not) to redesign and implement projects, and on which interventions have the potential of of positive impacts of important magnitudes. Interpretation of results needs to recognize the special character of evaluation research.
The contexts in which evaluations are undertaken and the organizational arrangements within evaluation groups influences the quality and utility of evaluations. There continues to be skepticism among decision-makers, planners, program staff, and target participants themselves on the gains from social interventions. Such skepticism is fortunately overshadowed by the human aspiration to improve the lives and conditions of ourselves and our community of brothers and sisters throughout the world. Evaluation practiced at the highest level of the state-of-the-art is one means of speeding up the processes that contribute to human and social progress.