Project Evaluation in Development Cooperation : A Meta-Evaluative Case Study in Tanzania

Abstract: The research reported here is a meta-evaluative case study of project evaluation in the context of Official Development Cooperation (ODC) in the education sector in Tanzania, where the particular focus is on capturing the relative values attached to evaluation by various stakeholder groups.Perspectives from the constructivist paradigm are adopted, implying relativist ontology, subjectivist epistemology, and naturalistic interpretive methodology. Based on these perspectives, a review is provided of development theories and evaluation theories, including the actor-oriented approach to development, participatory monitoring & evaluation, utilization-focused evaluation, and responsive-constructivist evaluation. An exploratory qualitative case study strategy is taken, combining several complementary methods e.g. in-depth interviews, questionnaires, document analysis, and observations.Evaluation is considered as an applied social research, implying a managerial and political purpose. It is a reflective interactive process, where the relevance, effectiveness and impact of an intervention in pursuit of certain objectives are assessed, adding value in order to construct knowledge for the enhancement of decision-making. In order to facilitate understanding of the cases under study, their structural contexts are investigated: 1) ODC evaluation systems and strategies (international/ macro context); and 2) ODC in the education sector in Tanzania (national/meso context). Each case (at local/micro level) is located within these contexts and analyzed applying a meta-evaluative framework.Integrating the perspectives of the stakeholders, the study demonstrates the strengths of, and constraints on, each case, factors which are to some extent determined by their respective time-frames. A number of significant discrepancies between theory and practice in ODC evaluation are reported. Findings indicate the significance of constructing consensus values that are based on a synthesis of multiple stakeholders’ values and perspectives complementing each others. The study also find that evaluation ought to be used as a powerful tool in which the values, needs and aspirations of various stakeholder groups can be reflected, especially those of local communities, who are now too often powerless in ODC projects in the education sector.