Skip to content

Conference starts today: Background papers now on line

2013 April 23

The Big Push Forward convenors welcome our hundred and ten participants and student volunteers.  For all those unable to attend, case this evening, viagra Brendan Whitty will be blogging about that day’s highlights and don’t forget tomorrow we are streaming live our final session.

Two papers have been prepared for the Conference and these are now on line. Rosalind Eyben’s Uncovering the Politics of Evidence and Results disentangles the historical threads and origins of results-based management and evidence-based policy/programming discourses. She discovers a strong ‘family resemblance’. Both assume that evidence pertains largely  to verifiable and quantifiable facts, and that other types of knowledge have less or little value; both have a particular understanding of causality, efficiency and accountability. The paper looks at how and why these discourses have entered and influenced the development sector and who is promoting them in which contexts  What has been the effect on the sector’s priorities and practices, and particularly its capacity to support transformative development?

Arguing the importance of being critically aware of how power sustains and reinforces the results-and-evidence discourses, Rosalind examines how these discourses generate artefacts (tools and protocols) such as log frames and theories of change that shape our working practices.   When hierarchical ways of working block communications and dialogue, the artefacts trigger perverse consequences but their power is neither uniform nor constant.  Analysing the politics of accountability and the sector’s internal dynamics, Rosalind suggests there is room for manoeuvre to expand and enable more transformative approaches to results and evidence within the sector.

Brendan Whitty’s paper, Experiences of the Results Agenda, paper analyses the data from an online survey, which invited visitors to the Big Push Forward website to give their perceptions of the impact of the results agenda on their working lives. Brendan analyses the very different experiences and interpretations of the respondents as revealed through both 153 responses to the quantitative survey and 109 qualitative stories. The study discusses the day-to-day practice of small-e evidence –results and targets in management of specific projects – rather than large-E evidence of establishing broader development policies. The stories are about the nuts and bolts of the development processes and artefacts – the theories of change, results frameworks, reporting requirements and value for money rubrics. It is about what ‘e’ is being collected, how it is used, and to what effect.

Respondents disagreed about the effects of these artefacts.   The contradictory perceptions seem to be often in tension. Thus learning is often seen to be(?) in tension with accountability; capturing the complexity in evaluation with harmonisation and reductionism; coordination of partners with constraining their freedom to adapt. How these tensions are resolved and the perceptions play out seems to be dependent on how the artefact is communicated, managed and tailored to its context. The fit appears to be important: the fit of the artefact to the existing systems and capacity of the organisation, and also the fit of the artefact to the specifics of the intervention (e.g. its complexity, the number of partners). Finally, perceptions of an artefact seem to be affected both by staff’s’s own circumstances and their relationship with others. The survey data suggests that those in M&E and management roles, who benefit from better data and more resources for their priorities, tended to be more positive than those in project implementation and mid-level roles.


During the conference we will be exploring these ideas and testing these intepretations. Come back tomorrow for the deliberations of Day 1,

Comments are closed.