Why promote the professionalization of evaluation? Reasons can be found at four interrelated levels:
Professionalization creates a win-win for all. Like other growing knowledge-economy professions across the globe, it is important that there be national, regional and international efforts toward collective definitions of good practices and quality standards.
Furthermore, evaluators need to reflect on their own skills and experience as well as the importance of ongoing professional development to stay current in the application of various models, approaches, tools and methods.
Professionalization would drive greater accountability in terms of transparency, quality and integrity. It would increase the recognition of the field of trade and its attractiveness to new entrants.
Clients also benefit from professionalization. Commissioners and managers of evaluations benefit from enhanced quality assurance and a clearer perspective on what to expect from a professional evaluator.
The professionalization of evaluation poses some risk to individuals, institutions and systems. At an individual level, the improved professionalization is likely to mean that those who do not follow the standards of professional practice may no longer be commissioned to provide services. Professionalization could discourage innovative methodological designs and promote conformity and a homogenous approach. At an institutional and system level, there is also a risk that the services of a professionalized and organized body of evaluators will be discounted by institutions, especially those that are unwilling to adapt, who consider the objective evaluation evidence to be “inconvenient truths”. This might lead a professional service being avoided or undermined by institutions or systems who resist the challenge to the status quo that evaluation can present. All in all, however, “the generic risks (restricted methodological diversity, rigidly standardized training, blocked access to talented practitioners, putting the interests of evaluators ahead over those of its clients) seem readily manageable.” (Picciotto, 2011)
So, questions to you, VOPE leaders: what are the issues that a professionalization process would address in your country? What benefits would you expect to derive for individual evaluators, for commissioners, for your VOPE, and for your country via a professionalization push? What risks do you see associated with such a process in your country? How could you mitigate these risks?