Summary: Trust and Evaluation (Academic Paper)

This post looks at my recent paper published in the ‘International Journal of Public Administration’,

“Trust Matters: Distrust in an External Evaluation of a Public Sector Program, explores how distrust can emerge within the external, programme evaluation relationship. This relationship can be a challenge to evaluators and yet has been relatively under-explored. The study was based within a large enterprise growth programme evaluation. The programme was worth £10.8m and consisted of several workstreams.

The paper was a challenge as it was based on an auto-ethnographic methodology. I do believe that this sort of methodology can be useful, presenting a warts-and-all account of phenomena and really digging deep into the possible reasons (in turn prompting further research questions). However, it can feel and sound a little self-indulgent – the second reviewer took some convincing.

Emerging from the paper, is:

  • …the notion of dis-trust manifesting itself in evaluation in two ways: through discourse, and action.
  • …confirmation that evaluation can be vulnerable to trust issues. Previous work has identified conflict and uncertainty within the evaluation setting, but besides Nigel Norris, few researchers have recognised trust as an issue.
  • …the perpetuation of meta-evaluative debate. Something I think we need in order to develop evaluation practice, and ensure/enhance its effectiveness.
  • …further research potential around trust and other aspects of organisational behaviour that present themselves within evaluation (this links with my current work exploring anxiety in evaluation, and links to XEA – Excessive Evaluation Anxiety (Donaldson, 2002)).