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date: 29 June 2022



  • Mary Odell ButlerMary Odell ButlerUniversity of Maryland at College Park


Evaluation anthropology is an organic synthesis of evaluation and anthropology in which each reinforces the other. Anthropology contributes the theory of culture as a primary mode of human adaptation, ethnography, and a methodology that is sensitive to the context embeddedness of human activity. The evaluation side adds the rigorous science needed to evaluations to be credible to decision makers. These include analyses and conclusions in evidence that can be linked to evidence and to develop a rationale that permits evaluation users to reconstruct the arguments underlying conclusions. Program evaluations are concerned with the value of human interventions in achieving important social goals. They form the evidence base for maintaining, changing, or eliminating programs, decisions that affect communities, careers, finances, and the welfare of both staff and clients.

There are special ethical concerns in evaluations because of the risk to program staff providing value information about their agencies and programs. Confidentiality is critical because programs are a “small world” in which opinions and speech mannerisms can permit identification by those who work in the same or similar programs. Thus, evaluators must be cautious about the use of quotes, position descriptions, and attributions to avoid professional damage to program staff and clients.

Program evaluation has become an important field for practicing anthropologists. Anthropologists who wish to do evaluations should network with other anthropologists doing evaluations as well as organizations that employ evaluators, read and attend seminars on evaluation theories and methods, and consider adding skills such as network analysis, economics, and decision theory that will add to their value as members of evaluation teams.


  • Applied Anthropology

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