(1) Most evaluations will be internal.
Object of evaluation increasingly emerges as a constructed object exactly by those who evaluate it. So the evaluation becomes less important as a tool for producing externally given objective truth and more for better understanding of conflicts about the truth (good, right…) which arise internally between participating agents. External evaluation becomes not less important but only ceases to be presented as a dominant aspect of interpretation and becomes valuable complementary approach to prevailingly internal evaluations in the future.
(2) Evaluations will be increasingly process oriented.
Except birth and death, everything in our life is a matter of process. Process perspective is relevant because we are found with our societies in the middle of deep transformation – because of globalisation, technical progress, end of (post)modernity… Process way of thinking is needed as more capable for understanding transformative issues in organisations or in policy-making, compared to static approach, which is prevailing.
(3) Theory of evaluation will advance from system science to theory of complexity.
Science and scientific paradigms themselves are in constant change. Presently system science is dominant in evaluation. The problem is with increasingly frequent situations, when no system approach is sensible for systematisation of escalating divisiveness in evaluated matter itself – such as because of increased sense of autonomy or at least particularity. All what is needed is to abandon a presumption that the truth which is searched for with evaluation is homogenous phenomenon, instead of a plural one. Evaluated matters are between themselves incompatible – and therefore complex in evaluation.
(4) From evaluation of primary impacts to evaluation of balance between primary and secondary impacts
Either for holistic aspiration or for plain efficiency drive, integration is the word which will change the reasoning and this will blur the difference between the central and peripheral, and diminish divisive thinking induced by presently divisive organisation of our everyday practices (nationally, division of labour, cultures…). When one evaluates at the national or at the organisational macro level, there are very few issues of primary importance for him/her and majority of secondary issues. And primary concerns are by their complex definition deeply divisive on macro level. So, integral insights into complex matters can be derived only from non primary, i.e. from secondary meanings (such as indirect, unwanted impacts). What is secondary to the primary can not produce substantively totally different meaning but of course it produces a meaning which is not the same to a perspective of any of the participating agents but it emerges from their disagreements. The same relates to the case of efficiency concerns: it is more sensible to achieve it as a side result when forwarding more primary important concerns then as in the reverse situation, present today, when it is imposed as the primary issue on its own disregarding all other primary concerns.
So, the realization that social matter has to be evaluated in a complex way simply means that it has to be evaluated in the golden ratio of its duality, stretched between the explanation of its primary meanings – which are constitutive for it, but in an incommensurable and deeply dividing way – and the explanation of its secondary meanings that are the only ones that lead to a holistic view, but merely in contents that are not of primary importance to anyone. On one side duality requires recognition of interdependence in weakly related secondary contents. On the other it demands recognition of independence in principal matters – these are always put forward uncompromisingly. This two step procedure which ensures balanced appreciation for primary and secondary qualities of social complexity is a relevant finding for our neo-liberal era, in which the conditions are utterly reversed
(5) Evaluation will increasingly replace positivist science as an approach to studying social matters.
Evaluation of social issues in complex setting requires our involvement, which triggers non-neutrality of our judgement. Non-neutrality is properly despised in objective science, such as when it is studying physical laws of falling apples on Newton’s head. But social apples follow social laws, not (only) physical; they are even less nicely mannered as they fall and fly all around the yard in a logic, which is only evident to them and can be externally evaluated as naughtiness, at its best. As a rule, naughtiness is the impression we obtain on the surface when facing perspective of each other in evaluation of ordinary social affairs. In the future evaluation will look like partly as a clash and partly as overlaps between these various naughty perspectives of general social good (which we mainly put forward in evolutions, see the AEA’s ethical codex).
(6) As a result of the above, new concept of totality will gradually emerge.
With the recognition of complexity of social affairs in policy evaluation, drastically different configurations of relationship will emerge between the Specific (Individual, micro) and the Collective (General, macro) perspective. In such a changed condition, “part” and “whole” become aware how intertwined their dualist destinies are. Social diversity is feasible only with the preservation of system overall unity and the opposite, system unity is realisable only through the preservation of differences between its constituents. If one thinks that social world is increasingly complex then his/her the main mission – when intervening into social affairs – is uncompromising preservation of conditions for the social complexity, such as for preservation of existing deep divisions, for advancement of parallel social structures, and for introduction of soft rationality about hard social divisions. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
* Text has been prepared in a response to John Gargani’s blog entry on the January 30, 2012 • 3:18 pm »Future of Evaluation: 10 Predictions«
** Link to the bibliography for the response text:
#”Synthesis in policy impact assessment“, Evaluation April 2011 17: 133-150, doi:10.1177/1356389011403450 or http://www.sdeval.si/Publikacije-za-komisijo-za-vrednotenje/Meso-Matrical-Synthesis-of-the-Incommensurable.html.
#”Primary and Secondary in Policy Evaluation“, http://www.sdeval.si/Publikacije-za-komisijo-za-vrednotenje/Primary-and-Secondary-in-Policy-Evaluation.html
*** Author is preparing a book »Social Complexity: Meso approach to evaluation of nonhomogenous social matters« (forthcoming in Sept. 2012; in Slovenian language, English abstract will be provided).