In interview with: Benoit Gauthier and the 'International Year of Evaluation' - Canadian Government Executive
Public SectorThe Interview
January 20, 2016

In interview with: Benoit Gauthier and the ‘International Year of Evaluation’

This year is the “International Year of Evaluation”, an area that is still budding in the Canadian public sector. To discuss the state of the profession and of the practice of evaluation, CGE Editor Patrice Dutil caught up with Benoît Gauthier, President of the Canadian Evaluation Society. Gauthier has been an evaluator for more than thirty years, in government and in private practice. He has taught social research methodology and he is the editor of the textbook Recherche sociale: de la problématique à la collecte des données. He was trained at Université Laval, Carleton University, and the École nationale d’administration publique.

CGE: An international commitment to evaluation is good news. As the celebratory year ends, what is your take on the state of program evaluation in Canada?

BG: Program evaluation in Canada is thriving in some areas but languishing in others. The federal government has firmly established its practice of regular evaluations that feed into the decision-making process but it has not been innovative in its approaches. Provincial and local governments are generally not very active in evaluation; they constitute the next frontier for the Canadian Evaluation Society. The not-for-profit sector implements regular evaluation and monitoring efforts, with very limited means and using approaches that are much more participatory, innovative, and anchored than other sectors. There is a lot to learn from the not-for-profit sector in terms of evaluation relevance, use, timeliness, and efficiency. Internationally, Canadian evaluators are sought for our range of practice and methods which focus on capacity building, evidence-based decision making, two-way knowledge-transfer, and sustainability.

CGE: Where do you see encouraging developments in practice?

BG: In the past decade or so, there has been extensive innovation in evaluation, including developmental evaluation, realist evaluation, theory-based evaluation, and contribution analysis. Many of these developments were in response to the need for more agile evaluation that delivers information that is useful for decision-making — at the policy, program, community and project levels — away from the purist social research ideal of the 70s and 80s. In recent years, evaluators have understood that, while they have to maintain a level of independence from decision-makers so that they can ask the tough questions and speak truth to power, their work is most useful when it is embedded in the organization and when the evaluations findings become organizational knowledge. This requires concerted strategies to translate evaluation observations into meaningful messages for management and stakeholders, and to mobilize the knowledge in a way that is adapted to each audience.

CGE: How do you see the profession of evaluation progressing?

BG: There has been formidable progress in evaluation as a profession in the past ten years or so. When I became an evaluator in the 80s, evaluation was a simple application of social science methods and we defined ourselves as applied social scientists. Slowly, a professional consciousness has grown among Canadian evaluators; by 2008, the professionalization impetus was such that the CES was able to create, with healthy but not fractious discussion, the first professional designation for evaluators in the world, that of Credentialed Evaluator (CE). The CE program is based on a code of ethics, a set of practice standards, and a collection of core competencies for evaluation practice in Canada. Active since 2010, it is still the only one of its kind but the professionalization trend has been a key theme of the international year of evaluation. Other evaluation societies — and there are more than 150 evaluation organizations in the world — watch attentively the CES CE program because they see it as a pilot test. The CES is dead serious about this program; we are in the midst of an independent evaluation and we expect the evaluation report early in the winter. Based on our preliminary research, we have observed that the CE program has measurable impacts on the level of training of evaluators and on their position in the marketplace. But even more importantly, the CE program contributes to the professional identification of evaluators. It is also a factor of attraction for new professionals because they see that evaluation professionals take their trade seriously and that there is a professional path for them in evaluation. Given time, we hope and expect that demand and recognition will continue to grow as managers will use the Credentialed Evaluator designation in their hiring and contracting decisions.

CGE: What do you think are the factors that seem to slow the adoption of rigorous, continuous assessments of policies and programs?

BG: Some things happen only when there is a demand for them and, to some degree, this is the case for evaluation. Evaluation is a key component of results-based management (RBM) because it can provide management and stakeholders with a rigorous assessment of the performance of an initiative. Without performance information, there is no management for results. The problem is that RBM is not engrained in the Canadian management culture: most managers are taught to manage resources and outputs, not results. The current climate of fiscal austerity is also not conducive to RBM because the demands from politicians are to reduce spending, not to improve results. That said, it is important to carry on evaluating anyway: the recent evaluation of the Government of Canada Policy on Evaluation has demonstrated that exposing senior managers to regular evaluation findings contributes to developing an appetite for evaluative evidence and, by way of consequence, for managing for results.

CGE: The new government in Ottawa seems committed to improving program evaluation. What is your take on how politicians generally view program evaluation?

BG: The rationality of politicians is multi-dimensional: they want to make a positive impact on society but they are also concerned with how their decisions appear to their electorate. That’s a normal by-product of democracy. Also, some politicians are more ideological and some are more pragmatic. For the past ten years, we have lived with a very ideological government in Ottawa: many a time, decisions were made without empirical evidence because politicians were ideologically convinced of the right way to address an issue. The new government that will be formed out of the 2015 election is likely to be more pragmatic and evidence-oriented. This is an opportunity for evaluation to contribute more to the policy debate. The same is true with other governments: pragmatic politicians embrace evaluation information; now we have to show them that evaluation is a preferred way to develop the empirical evidence they need.

CGE: What can government executives do to encourage a new approach to evaluation in their departments?

BG: Government executives have to demand independent, rigorous, timely, and relevant information from their evaluators. They have to support the funding of evaluation to a level that allows evaluators to provide this information; nothing comes for free. They also have to inform evaluators of when they need information for decision-making. Government executives must also be ready to pitch in by ensuring solid on-going monitoring of program performance that will help produce evaluation information as part of a continuum of performance information feedback.

CGE: Tell me about the state of education in program evaluation. What still needs to be done?

BG: The situation of education in evaluation is much more positive now than a few years ago but there is still much more to do. The Consortium of Universities for Evaluation Education (CUEE) was created in 2008. Fifteen universities are currently members of this organization. Not all of them offer degrees in evaluation but several do. Whereas it was impossible to get a graduate degree in evaluation just a few years ago, it is now available — even through distance programs from some institutions — in English and in French. CES is also active in evaluation training: we offer a four-day introduction called the “Essential Skills Series” and two intermediate courses. We are currently working on the development of seven more intermediate level courses. The CES is also planning on moving heavily into on-line course delivery so that geographic location cease being a barrier.

CGE: And what about the Canadian Evaluation Society? What lies ahead for your association?

BG: CES is thriving. Even though, like many other professional organizations in the developed world, the CES competes with free resources and networking available on the web, we have very successfully developed the first professional designation program for evaluators in the world. We offer significant professional benefits to our members, and we maintain mutually beneficial relationships with many organizations in the sphere of evaluation. We are emphasizing more and more our promotional role, informing users of the benefits of evaluation and of best practices for evaluation use. Our brand new strategic plan puts forth three priorities: to increase the value of evaluation; to engage, grow and diversify our membership; and to advance the professionalization of evaluation. Visit us anytime at evaluatiocanada.ca. We are here to support evaluators, managers, and stakeholders.

[Pull quote if necessary] In recent years, evaluators have understood that, while they have to maintain a level of independence from decision-makers so that they can ask the tough questions and speak truth to power, their work is most useful when it is embedded in the organization and when the evaluation’s findings become organizational knowledge.

About this author

Patrice Dutil

Patrice Dutil is the Editor of Canadian Government Executive. He is a Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University in Toronto. He has worked as a government policy advisor, a non-profit organization executive, a television producer and was the founder, and editor for five years, of The Literary Review of Canada. His upcoming publications include a book on the administrative practices of Canadian prime ministers Macdonald, Laurier and Borden, and a study of the 1917 election in Canada.

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Public Sector
 
When James Cattell, a delivery manager at the UK’s Department for...
 
Welcome to the fall edition of CGE. Since our last issue,...
 
The Northern Federal Council (NFC) is a collaborative network of over...
 
Usually, the summer period is a relatively slow time for public...
 
As a new professional working in government, I hear a lot...
 
Most people go into public service because they want to improve...
 
Canadian Government Executive media (CGE) announced today that Lori Turnbull has...
 
Recently, CGE Editor-in-Chief George Ross sat down with Patrick Borbey, President...
 
The UK Department for Education (DfE) doesn’t have an easy mandate:...
 
We all ask why governments fail, often spectacularly, to carry out...
 
Innovation labs and units have become so fashionable in the public...
 
We would like to introduce a new section on Canadian Government...
 
In this episode, J. Richard Jones, publisher of Canadian Government Executive...
 
The January/February 2018 issue of Canadian Government Executive is on the...
 
You could hear the oxygen leave the room after I asked...
 
‘Elephant in the room’ is a metaphorical idiom for an obvious...
 
Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day – an annual initiative that...
 
Canadian Government Executive is honoured to have Michael Wernick, Clerk of...
 
It’s that time of year when some of us think reluctantly...
 
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This quote from management specialist Peter...
 
Professional development is tremendously important to members of Canada’s public sector....
 
Public servants are responsible for providing advice and support to the...
 
The International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index project, a collaboration between...
 
Today, the challenges facing governments are increasingly shifting away from traditional,...
 
Rankings of public sector entities has been big trend for quite...
 
Have you ever met a virtual human being? By common definition,...
 
In today’s workplace, individuals increasingly face dynamic and difficult challenges that...
 
In a rather unusual, quiet manner this past summer, a new...
 
We are happy to share with you the September 2017 issue...
 
We are pleased to provide you with an opportunity to help...
 
Innovation is vital in every sector; public service is no exception....
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, George Ross, Editor-in-Chief of CGE...
 
For over 20 years, Canadian Government Executive (CGE) has been a...
 
In this episode, Editor-in-Chief of CGE, George Ross talks with Sir...
 
How does a mandate for innovation challenge evaluation? Increasingly, the public...
 
The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA Alliance) is Canada’s One Voice...
 
Currently, there are ten organizations at the federal level that function...
 
Risk is always present in any undertaking, no matter the size...
 
In 2015, the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED)...
 
The critical challenge facing the public service is changing its culture....
 
What we do in life echoes in eternity (GLADIATOR (2000) An...
 
In this issue of Canadian Government Executive, our lead story is...
 
For all its subtleties and mysteries, the Westminster system of government...
 
Several factors are driving an increased interest in horizontal assurance in...
 
The bootleg fentanyl overdose crisis that is sweeping across Western provinces...
 
Terrorism operates with deadly regularity. In June 2016, a gunman who...
 
It’s a common notion that young workers born in the mid-1990s...
 
According to the latest Viewpoint report issued by the Montreal Economic Institute, Quebec’s...
 
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has released new research...
 
The association representing more than 42,000 physicians and medical students in...
 
Yesterday, arbitrator Michel G. Picher accepted Canada Post’s proposal during final...
 
Contrary to the stereotype of eagerness and politesse, the second Bold...
 
Between the streetcars, buses and subways that interconnect across the city...
 
After writing the book “Megatrends: The Impact of Infrastructure on Ontario’s...
 
Over the past forty years, ministers have grown remarkably more media-sensitive...
 
Though many of Canada’s immigrants have above-average education, they often find...
 
Governments around the world are seeking to tap technologies such as...
 
The fact that Shared Services Canada (SSC) has struggled mightily under...
 
The union representing Canadian postal workers has rejected a proposal from...
 
The possibility of mail delivery disruption on Friday this week loomed...
 
The Senate committee looking into Canada’s Syrian refugee program wants the...
 
Computer software company Adobe, has migrated more than 11 million pages...
 
As a consultant, I work primarily with private sector organizations including...
 
The recent retirement of seven federal deputy ministers (DMs) reminds us...
 
On June 7, over 40 senior executives from within the public...
 
All’s fair in love and war JOHN LILY (1578): EUPHUES: THE...
 
Whether it is convincing companies to build R&D centres, factories, or...
 
The fact that Shared Services Canada (SSC) has struggled mightily under...
 
As much a 20 per cent of grade seven students in...
 
The actions and decisions of public servants have consequences for the...
 
Public sector design thinking has evolved from obscurity to something of...
 
The procurement group within the Government of Canada is undergoing a...
 
People caught a glimpse of the work of partisan advisers in...
 
Veterans Affairs Canada is not adequately managing the drug component of...
 
The Trudeau government is now six months into its mandate and...
 
Some public servants will have to request their departments for emergency...
 
It almost goes without saying that good governance requires fair and...
 
One of the most important powers at the disposal of Canadian...
 
Two years ago, Bixi, a not-for-profit, para-municipal bicycle-share firm of the...
 
Following the various mandate letters from the Trudeau Administration, the Minister...
 
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) yesterday heard from several...
 
Years and years ago when I was unemployed, being able to...
 
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today begins a public...
 
In dealing with the impact on the sharing economy on transportation,...
 
Professors are obliged to set regular weekly office hours, something most...
 
Things just get curiouser and curiouser. Lewis Carroll (1865): ’s Adventures...
 
As Toronto’s city staff prepares top release proposed regulations for taxis...
 
The Prime Minister is now well into the consolidation phase of...
 
It is no secret that evaluation reports in the federal public...
 
  The pressure is always on to make government services to...
 
The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Lab is...
 
Eight years ago, the always prolific University of Chicago Law School...
 
Canadians expect their public services to be delivered in a way...
 
The Liberal government is expected to announce on Tuesday a new...
 
The Trudeau Liberal platform of instituting “delivery” capabilities has garnered considerable...
 
Shared Services Canada appears to be in trouble again – this...
 
Growing public expectations on the speed at which they can received...
 
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health is poised to hold a news...
 
A while back there have been numerous media reports about the...
 
Monday was the final day for Canadians to donate money to...
 
Prime Minister Trudeau is off on one of the most intense...
 
A number of studies of Canadian federal and provincial government policy...
 
That the new Liberal Government has embraced ‘open government’ is hardly...
 
Meet Bob Heart.  He is an outstanding employee who works hard...
 
There is no shortage of examples of businesses that effectively used...
 
This year is the “International Year of Evaluation”, an area that...
 
By Craig Killough In March of this year, the Prime Minister’s Advisory...
 
Written By Jason McNaught The Public Service Alliance of Canada was...
 
Written by Jason McNaught Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page doesn’t...
 
Public servants deliver the government’s agenda and serve Canadians in policy,...
 
As with any other industry, technology plays a vital role within...
 
In 1990, the Institute of Public Administration of Canada published The...
 
Our jobs can define us, and this can be dangerous. I...
 
The Veterans Ombudsman’s office is accepting nominations for the Veterans Ombudsman’s...
 
“I wasn’t really nervous until he hooked up the wires,” said...
 
CGE columnist David Zussman, Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management in...
 
The public service is a funny beast. We have so many...
 
The health of our public service executive cadre should matter not...
 
The government of Saskatchewan gave the Premier’s Award for Excellence in...
 
Since the Clerk’s Blueprint 2020 launch in June, departments have been working full...
 
What’s the purpose of jargon? Jargon that is incomprehensible to the...
 
The official travel card suppliers for federal employees of the government...
 
Anxiety, fatigue, and exhaustion in a leader can burnout the team....
 
Passing on shared knowledge and letting new leaders emerge are ways...
 
When the public face of an organization or a well-known leader...
 
HR has a poor reputation for innovation. After all, risk might...
 
What do you do if you’re a leader in a large...
 
School bullying has been an issue in the news, and it’s...
 
The simple basics of brainstorming are forgotten far too often, and...
 
Motivation can be linked to the following job characteristics: skill variety,...
 
Taken every three years, this is the latest feedback on what...
 
What matters most to managers?High productivity? Efficiency and organization? How about...
 
It remains perennially important to distinguish between what makes a great...
 
A public relations mishap can be turned into positive attention, as...
 
James Kendrick’s January article The Right Leadership got me thinking about...
 
With innovation, the question is not just how, but who? Who...
 
In October, the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service...
 
Last spring, the Mental Health Commission of Canada launched the country’s...
 
The best of the Editor’s Choice articles...
 
In the Nineteenth Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the...
 
Air travel can be stressful and harmful. While the destination may...
 
They told us that technology would usher in the ‘era of...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 I am writing this from my...
 
Whether it’s travel, improving your golf swing or finally tackling the...
 
Quote of the week “Unless a public sector executive knows a...
 
Is retirement on your horizon? Do you plan to finish with...
 
Mental health matters. No one knows this better than Sylvie Giasson....
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
When James Cattell, a delivery manager at the UK’s Department for...