Cultural issues in evaluation
Having spent the last week in the Congo – mostly in Kisangani (pictured above) for an evaluation project, I’ve been thinking about cultural issues and evaluation – in particular how evaluators are perceived in different societies as I’ve written about before.
Interestingly, when I was recently in Central Asia, it was explained to me that evaluation in the Soviet tradition was traditionally seen as an inspection-like function which would search for small mistakes for which people could then be punished for (demotion or worse..).
In Africa, the perception is quite different. People see you as coming to listen, investigate and relay what you have found. Those working with NGOs are now familiar with evaluation.
Of course, cultural issues and how you are percieved can affect your evaluation. I don’t believe there are any quick learning points except to understand as much as you can about the cultural you are working in – and to test your evaluation methodology and questions by discussing with local people prior to any gathering of data.
This article (pdf) has some interesting points on evaluating across cultures, for example, explaining local relevance and usefulness of the evaluation and to be careful in the use of questionnaire types (such as the Likert scale) which may be misunderstood in some contexts.