A host of reasons exist for the pursuit of evidence in the public sector, including to support good governance and policy development. As the expectations for program evaluation from policymakers have evolved, so too has evaluation practice and a great deal of experimentalism has ensued. There is a risk that these developments and the complexity inherent in them, may lead to conflicting expectations about why program evaluation is done, or even a loss of purpose. This prompts the meso-level analysis of two types of stakeholders in a governance network, explored in this chapter. This chapter presents the findings of an ongoing study which explores the perceptions of program evaluators and policy implementers towards the purpose of evidence. The findings suggest that program evaluators and policy implementers have divergent expectations of why and how evaluation data might be used. The findings suggest that program evaluators aspire to support change and enhance the policy domains they serve, whereas policy implementers perceive program evaluation as serving a more governance-/management-orientated role. The chapter demonstrates the complexity of both program evaluation and policy and may have implications for the twin pillars of governance and responsibility at the heart of the book. If governance and responsibility are the twin pillars of sustainability then the complex networks of relationships, expectations, values, and outcomes may need to be considered. The findings also have implications for evaluation commissioners and practitioners, demonstrating the need for the purpose and expectations of program evaluation to be agreed early. The use of program evaluation as a symbolic, aesthetic or structural mechanism also emerges, prompting opportunity for further research, for instance, to explore legitimacy and program evaluation.
Wond, T. (2018) Evaluation for what purpose? Findings from two stakeholder groups, Ch 6 in Crowther, D. Seifi, S. and Wond, T. (2018) Responsibility and governance: the twin pillars of sustainability. Springer
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