Cultures of evaluation: Tales from the end of the line

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Experiences in and around aid agencies suggest that the results agenda militates against a culture of learning and improvement to which evaluations should usefully contribute. In this article, I argue that this is an issue with both ethical and operational dimensions. The reductionist and simplifying effects of quantitative indicators of achievement as instruments of performance management, which I see as characteristic of audit culture, are having a pernicious effect in many aid environments. The technical and instrumental ways monitoring and evaluation is understood within the everyday culture of aid agencies preclude the space and time necessary for an ethically premised culture of learning. These social effects of audit culture detract from our capacity as a sector to deliver positive change, and should be of concern to evaluators, commissioners and consumers of evaluations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-560
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Development Effectiveness
Issue number4
Early online date15 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Ethics
  • audit
  • culture
  • evaluation

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