The Future of Evaluation project is a collaborative effort to imagine what evaluation will be like in ten years. Learn more.
The theme of my address—the future of evaluation, of course.
I shared my perspective with a fascinating group of evaluators who are working throughout Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. I described the forces that I believe are shaping our profession and offered a few predictions about how the profession may change
Then we opened up the discussion and they offered some of their own predictions. The conversation was lively and their perspective fresh. I found it extremely useful—a lot to think about
Here are some of their predictions. To make the list more readable, I have (imperfectly) organized them around a few themes. Food for thought.
- Foundations and social entrepreneurs will continue to play a leadership role in driving change in how environmental and social evaluations are done—and in how the resultant reports are made available.
- There will be less money for evaluations whenever those who don’t believe in science gain the majority in our local, state, and national governments.
- Evaluations will become mandatory for ALL funding agencies.
Evaluation and Program Design
- Evaluators will use their expertise to “front end” programs [i.e. be involved in their planning and design].
- Evaluators will become and integral part of program planning and implementation from the beginning of program planning.
- More emphasis will be placed on targeted, quality needs assessments.
Training and Licensure
- Evaluation will be in greater demand as organizations (i.e., government, business, etc.) need to justify the costs and or benefit of programs and projects. More individuals will need to be trained in basic methods as well as technological integration.
- Evaluators will have a licensing certificate for credentialing purposes.
- All major universities will have a Ph.D. program in evaluation.
- All professional programs (MD, JD, MSW, BSN, etc.) will include at least one evaluation class in their curriculum to introduce the value and show how evaluation can be used to better their career.
- Evaluation will be taught as a foundational skill—just like critical thinking or writing. I will entail learning how to utilize data for feedback.
Power in Local Contexts
- Evaluation will become a tool of DIY community-based organizations that will take bck control of the popular narrative.
- Evaluations will be required to recognize indigenous cultures and native people (i.e., indigenous evaluation methodologies). Don’t underestimate wisdom translated through ancient knowledge. Plus, it’s political.
- There will be a call for bridging narrative between science and the community—“evaluation translators.”
- Knowledge generation in evaluation is shifting emphasis from generalizable knowledge to specific local use.
- There will be an influx of geographically-based evaluators in order to show the value of culture/context in evaluation. Evaluators from Mainland with a broad focus will fall out of favor in order to open the door for more narrowly-focused evaluators who are experts in their context.
- Evaluation will become an internal practice of organizations: self-evaluation and self-reflection.
- Every [government] department of division will have at least one evaluation or data analyst position.
- Evaluation will be more engaged and participatory.
- Consumers and payers will soon expect performance management data at the front door to make informed decisions on whether to enroll or register.
Data and Data Collection
- More resources will be directed toward setting up quality data systems to maximize the availability and quality of impact data.
- Data collection will be more democratized. People will realize they are or can be collecting data, and not really think about it as data collection, but contribute to a larger efforts.
- A data divide will grow, with more funding going to places that can easily collect data.
- Open APIs will allow links to bade between better datasets more easily, and applications will be developed that utilize the data.
- A segment of the population will be freaked out by the increasing amount of data collected about them, and will distrust any person or entity that tries to collect data
- We’ll be able to use very low numbers of cases to determine outcomes for larger populations…or BETTER YET…we could test the effectiveness of a program/intervention on a virtual sample of people…and be comfortable with the results.
- Data analysis will be democratized, at least where it is easy. Improvements in user interfaces will allow people/program staff to more easily make sense of information they are collecting on an ongoing basis.
- Evaluation will become more standardized in format. There will be online tools that are like flowcharts to help evaluators choose evaluation methods and reporting formats. This will streamline the evaluation process.
- There will be a backlash against quantitative assessment/evaluation.
- Evaluation in the future will reflect ideas/methods/theories from many disciplines, It will truly evolve into being a transdiscipline. These might be concepts/methods “borrowed” from disciplines NOT currently associated with evaluation.
- Social sector organizations will try to play catch up with business and tech organizations in methods and technology, for better or for worse.
- Evaluation results will be shared more widely.
- Evaluation will be ultra green Less paper, less energy use. Net benefit—saves more money than the evaluation costs, less personnel time, more building on evaluation already done. Also fewer conferences like this one—less enjoyable.
- The formal, final evaluation report will give way to more informal, frequent mid-year reports for program improvement.
- Cost-benefit analysis will be in greater demand.