2014 Use Award for Empowerment Evaluation

2014 AEA Evaluation Advocacy and Use Award
Dr. David Fetterman

Dr. Fetterman is the recipient of the 2014 American Evaluation Association Advocacy and Use Award.  He receive the award in large part for his international evaluation work, using empowerment evaluation in over 16 countries.  His award acceptance speech is available on YouTube and the text is provided below.

My vision of evaluation and its multiple purposes has taken me literally around the world, from squatter settlements in South Africa to high tech corporate offices in Palo Alto.  This has made me an unofficial, but no less committed, ambassador of evaluation.

Taking Stock Step of Empowerment Evaluation in Cape Town
On some days, I see myself as a pioneering theoretician, on others an entrepreneurial practitioner, from ethnographic to empowerment evaluation – but always an advocate for the field of evaluation. 
I believe my thinking about evaluation has matured over the years (at least I hope it has).  This has been in large part due to my colleagues sitting here around this room, including my good friends and colleagues, Abe Wandersman, Liliana Rodriguez-Campos, Stewart Donaldson, Kimberly James, Tom Grayson, as well as Michael Patton, Michael Scriven, and even Brad Cousins.  I also appreciate the contributions of my editors C. Deborah Laughton at Guilford, Helen and Nicole at Sage, and Margo at Stanford.

Even my family has contributed to my development and definition of my evaluative self.  For example, at one Passover Seder, many years ago, my Aunt Mary asked me the question we all dread as evaluators:  “What is it that you do - for a living?” 

At the time I was caught up in seeing myself firmly planted in methods (see Marv’s Roots of Evaluation book and you will see where I saw myself then and where I see myself today on his evaluation theory tree – today I focus on use). 

Evaluation Roots
Nevertheless at the time, I was obsessed with ethnographic methods, a cultural interpretation, reactivity, survey design, and the like.  I still recall answering her simple and straightforward question.  I told her I was a methodologist.  She looked at me in astonishment and asked:  “Does that mean you’re not Jewish anymore?”  I quickly reaffirmed my Jewish identity, even before the Seder was over.  Since then I have learned to speak more clearly, more simply, and hopefully more thoughtfully about what I do.  She never knew it but that night she helped me to open my eyes to a much larger view of the world and my place in it.  She also helped me to more clearly communicate who I am and what I do as an evaluator.

Together my colleagues, friends, and family have helped me communicate more clearly about the value of evaluation, in its varied forms – not only empowerment evaluation. (But do look for our new empowerment evaluation book at the Sage booth – they got it out just in time for our meetings).

Empowerment Evaluation (2nd edition)
In any case, I think each one of us is an ambassador of evaluation as we pursue our work.  Our task on the one hand is to be bold, conscientious, and considerate.  We are here to push the edges of the intellectual envelope when it comes to our theory and practice.  But none of this matters, if we forget why we are here - if we forget our humanity. 

We stand at the crossroads where use, value, methods and ethics intersect.   We have a responsibility to use evaluation to improve the human condition – short and simple.  It is our job to keep our eyes on the prize.  Thank all of you for your commitment to evaluation and your service as ambassadors of evaluation.


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