4.1 Ethical considerations
Trust, credibility and the uses and misuses of evaluation also clearly demonstrate why ethics ought to play an important role in evaluation. By ethics I simply mean a set of moral principles that govern or influence the conduct of an evaluator/evaluation. These would, for example, provide guidance as to how to respond to the examples of the misuse of politics and power in evaluation, and its hidden functions, as well as perhaps providing a position from which to respond to complaints of a lack of ‘realpolitik’. Subscribing to an ethical position – and making this plain to the stakeholders in an evaluation – can guard against the manipulation of the design and conduct of an evaluation, such as the instrumental use of certain stakeholders and the exclusion of others to ensure a particular outcome. Another example that is a fairly common area of tension for evaluations in certain contexts would be respecting the confidentiality of the sources of information collected during an evaluation, and the protection of those sources and vulnerable stakeholders in general, where the results of an evaluation are critical or likely to result in recriminations.
As you may have noticed from your research for Activity 10, the American and Swiss evaluation associations both publish a set of ethical guidelines to accompany their good practice guidelines or professional standards. In summary then, ethical guidelines, codes of conduct, standards and so on, reflect sets of moral principles and the values associated with them, and therefore provide extremely useful defences against the misuse and abuse of both evaluators and evaluations.