Canadian Government Executive - Volume 24 - Issue 03

32 / Canadian Government Executive // May/June 2018 Evaluation R esistance to evaluation may take various forms at different stages of an evaluation initiative. Prior to beginning the evaluation, re- sistance may result from anxiety about the process or an anticipation of the effects of evaluation. For example, program manag- ers may be afraid that the evaluation will involve a judgment on the quality of their work. Resistance could manifest itself as a set of arguments around the program specific characteristics, contesting the relevance of conducting an evaluation. During evaluation, resistance may affect – passively or actively – the conduct of the evaluative process. Resistant stakeholders may try to generate barriers to the imple- mentation of evaluation activities, for in- stance by refusing to participate, distort- ing information or altering the evaluation procedures. Resistance may arise, among other sources, from first line intervening actors who consider the exercise a waste of time affecting the fulfillment of their mission. It may also arise from program managers who question the timing of the evaluation in relation to their project man- agement agenda. At the end of the evalua- tion initiative, resistance may involve chal- lenging the legitimacy of the evaluation results and discrediting the evaluation by attacking the methodology or skills of the evaluator. Again here, an anticipation of the effects of evaluation may cause resis- tance. For example, a director may want to preserve the notoriety of its organization and perceive that evaluation results will feed critics outside the organization or po- tentially involve cut in program funding. Municipal actors may fear that evaluation results affect their city’s reputation. In- deed, evaluation – like other organization- al processes – is at the centre of different interests and information needs that may contradict or complement each other. A good understanding of the dynamics associated with resistance and propensity to evaluation is important. It can help de- cision makers and managers, as sponsors of evaluation processes, to develop evalua- tion procedures and strategies minimizing resistance and maximizing propensity – that is to say, a positive inclination toward evaluation – from stakeholders. Building on empirical examples, we dis- cuss prominent factors influencing stake- holders’ perceptions as well as suggestions to prevent resistance and encourage the development of a positive orientation to- ward evaluation. Finding the Path of Least Resistance in Evaluation Factors at the individual and contextual levels, as well as the characteristics of the evaluation process, may have an impact on stakeholders’ perceptions regarding evaluation. Personal characteristics such as a fear of criticism or a negative experience in pre- vious evaluation processes may influence individual feelings and expectations with regard to the evaluation process. For in- stance, in a study involving professionals By Marie-Hélène L’Heureux, Steve Jacob & Pernelle Smits Evaluation may provide information relevant to broader public processes such as program im- provement, decision- making or account- ability. Nonetheless, evaluation’s positive contribution to these goals may be affected by resistance from stakeholders associ- ated with the pro- gram being evaluated. Building Better Buy-in for Evaluation