How evaluation affects accountability mechanisms.

Porter, Stephen (2020) How evaluation affects accountability mechanisms. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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In international development people with power often publicly demand accountability on the basis that it supports enhanced poverty reduction. Accountability mechanisms are forums where these demands for accountability are realised through agents meeting to exercise and constrain power. In exercising and constraining power, the agents in the accountability mechanism draw on evaluation to assist decision-making. Evaluators are familiar with providing evaluation as an instrument that responds to demands of accountability mechanisms (Christie and Alkin, 2014; Rossi et al, 2018). For evaluators though, there is a gap in research related to how they affect accountability mechanisms to support the achievement of a goal – be it responsiveness to the voices of marginalized people, social betterment, evidence use, or transformation. To close the evidence gap, this thesis presents a middle-range theory of how evaluation affects accountability based on a thorough review of relevant studies and a metaethnographic synthesis of five studies that I authored or co-authored.

The thesis proposes a middle-range theory for how evaluation affects accountability mechanisms through a strategic approach in which evaluators with other agents target achievement of a common goal, such as, expanded voice of citizens. Strategically the middle range theory prioritizes navigating the authorising environment in order to develop partnerships that provide leadership and exercise power towards a common goal. Three tactics implemented in the process of evaluation support strategic change in the authorising environment, namely, (i) expanding the focus of demand, (ii) accessing the agenda of agents; and (iii) undertaking a shared journey on evaluation quality. When evaluators work towards a common goal in an accountability mechanism’s authorising environment and activate the three tactics in the process of evaluation, the logic of decision-making adapts.

In working to affect accountability mechanisms evaluators require relational and analytical approaches to engage in political spaces. This thesis identifies five approaches that can be combined to assist in both the authorising environment and evaluation processes. Evaluators need approaches to work in a relational manner, which in this study meant undertaking Helping (Porter, 2011; Schein, 2009) and joint production (Packard Foundation, 2010b;Porter, 2013). Evaluators also require approaches to map opportunities and constraints for affecting accountability mechanisms by, for example, by detailing the demand for evaluation (Porter and Goldman, 2013) and the political economy of the context (Porter, 2017). The Capability Approach (Alkire, 2005; Sen, 1999) arises in this study as a guiding framework for affecting accountability mechanisms. The capability approach goes further than the other approaches discussed in the study by providing an underlying ethic, which has both relational and analytical applications. The capability approach also has an in-depth justification for the prioritisation of freedom in both the means and ends of development, and an emphasis on a broad information basis for evaluation (Porter and de Wet, 2009).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Global Development (formerly School of International Development)
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 11 Aug 2021 10:04
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2021 10:04


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