Ethics, values and evaluation

All practice – whether evaluations or development interventions - is underpinned by particular value systems. In recent years the field of impact evaluation within international development has become largely driven by methodology and empiricism. To some extent, this has meant that it has lost touch with the ‘value’ dimension of evaluation, with values being primarily understood in relation to rigour: the scientific generation of facts or truths which are assumed to be self-evident and universally valid.

Recent debates on evaluation ethics have also tended to be narrow, often focused upon ethical concerns about ‘care of the subject’ – such as gaining consent and protecting the anonymity of respondents involved in data collection. The work of CDI aims to broaden the debate; to consider how values shape the choices (of evaluation questions, the evaluation subject and design), as well as the conduct of evaluations and its relationship supporting (or undermining) longer-term transformational change and impact.

The focus of CDI’s work is on:

  • Encouraging debates on ethics and values in evaluation
  • Learning from evaluation practice, and the role of ethics and values

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This panel discussion is supported by the Institute of Development Studies' Department for International Development Accountable Grant, with a view to continue a dialogue around the use and application of ethics in impact evaluation.

The event was hosted by the Centre for Development Impact (CDI), a joint initiative between IDS, Itad and the University of East Anglia. It builds on previous research conducted by the CDI to open up debate on ethics within the field of impact evaluation.

July 2016