Introduction to Professionalizing Evaluation: A Global Perspective on Evaluator Competencies

  • Jean King University of Minnesota
  • Donna Podems


To have competencies or not to have competencies? That now seems to be a question for program evaluators and evaluation associations from around the globe. After roughly 50 years, people in a variety of settings are debating whether or not the time has arrived for a formal statement of the unique—or at least distinctive—knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for practitioners of program evaluation. Although program evaluation is a growing practice that has become a recognized field of vocation and study, wide interpretations of what competencies are necessary to guide evaluation practice remain. Commentators have provided many arguments, both positive and negative, surrounding the development, implementation, and potential use of competencies. Some point to the positive potential of the field’s coming to agreement on a core set. By contrast, not everyone is enthusiastic about the potential that a declaration of competencies might hold. As a statement by the United Kingdom Evaluation Society (UKES) summarizes,

Some fear that it might provide a stranglehold on what evaluators can do; that it could not cover the variety of competencies needed for different evaluations; and that it might provide commissioners and managers of an evaluation with an inflexible list of competencies that would hold evaluators to account in unhelpful ways. (UKES, 2002, n.p.)