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.
CDI’s working assumption is that 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’.
Preliminary work by the CDI looks at the conduct of evaluators, which is presumed to be guided by moral and ethical principles and guidelines. But who these moral principles relate to and whether they go far enough is subject to increasing debate. Does current practice urge evaluators to consider the inherent complexity of different situations, practices and beliefs? Are evaluators properly incorporating diverse – and underprivileged – perspectives in evaluation? The panel discussion makes a modest contribution to these questions by considering the issue of inclusion in evaluation; specifically, in which contexts is inclusion more or less possible?