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Conducting evaluation in contested terrain: Challenges, methodology and approach in an American context


  • Cohen, Barry B.


Using case examples, the author describes circumstances under which violence and conflict, overt and covert, have impinged on his evaluation field work. When fear is pervasive, it constrains people's ability and willingness to participate in an evaluation and their candor if they do. It can also be dangerous. Safety and well-being of participants and researchers in his view take priority over the evaluation's goals. Evaluation involving people who are survivors of violence, torture and conflict requires special sensitivity and examples are offered of appropriate methodologies. Stakeholders in evaluations presumably have beneficent interest in a program's success. However in conflict situations ‘malevolent’ stakeholders, who standing to gain from a project's failure, will actively try to thwart it. Undermining the evaluation as well and impugning the evaluator's objectivity, skill, knowledge and credibility are among the tactics they employ. Evaluators are urged to stay attuned to field conditions, consider alternative methods and locations for collecting data and be self-conscious and deliberate about how their study and role are defined and understood by contending parties.

Suggested Citation

  • Cohen, Barry B., 2012. "Conducting evaluation in contested terrain: Challenges, methodology and approach in an American context," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 189-198.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:epplan:v:35:y:2012:i:1:p:189-198
    DOI: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2010.11.002

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    Evaluation; Crime; Safety; Fear; Youth;


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