Pearl Eliadis, Jan-Eric Furubo & Steve Jacob (eds), Evaluation: Seeking Truth or Power, New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2011, 240 pages.
Evaluation has come of age. Today most social and political observers would have difficulty imagining a society where evaluation is not a fixture of daily life, from individual programs to local authorities to parliamentary committees. While university researchers, grant makers and public servants may think there are too many types of evaluation, rankings and reviews, evaluation is nonetheless viewed positively by the public. It is perceived as a tool for improvement and evaluators are seen as dedicated to using their knowledge for the benefit of society.
The book examines the degree to which evaluators seek power for their own interests. This perspective is based on a simple assumption: If you are in possession of an asset that can give you power, why not use it for your own interests? Can we really trust evaluation to be a force for the good? To what degree can we talk about self-interest in evaluation, and is this self-interest something that contradicts other interests such as "the benefit of society?" Such questions and others are addressed in this brilliant, innovative, international collection of pioneering contributions.
1. Evaluation: For Public Good or Professional Power?
Jan-Eric Furubo and Ove Karlsson Vestman
Section I: “Do unto Ourselves….”
2. Policy and Evaluation: Many Powers, Many Truths
Andrew Gray and Bill Jenkins
3. Sharing Power among Evaluation Players: Mission Possible?
4. Taking One’s Own Medicine? The Self-Evaluation of the Danish Evaluation Institute
Section II: Game Frontiers: Political and Administrative Players
5. PART: Program Assessment or Power Grab?
Jonathan D. Breul
6. Co-Ordination of Social Policies at the EU Level: An Ambiguous Relationship between Evaluation and Politics
7. The Power of Illusion: Evaluative Information and Political Steering in Valais
8. Peer Evaluation—The Powerful Peer?
Section III: To Have and to Hold … Power
9. Using Their Discretion: How State Audit Institutions Determine Which Performance Audits to Undertake
10. Power Asymmetries and Performance Audits: The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Auditor General of Canada
Evaluators in the Land of Oz-Dealing with Hard and Soft Power
Ray C. Rist