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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Brown Bag Series with Emily Springer

The Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change is holding the Brown Bag Series "Behind the PowerPoint: Knowledge Production through International Development Evaluation Systems." The event will be held on Friday, November 22 at 12:00pm in 537 Heller Hall. Emily Springer will be presenting.

Abstract: Since the late 1980s, international development donors have increasingly required the demonstration of return-on-investment through quantitative performance metrics. With the proliferation of 'rigorous' metrics, statements about people in developing countries (see above chart) obtain a factlike status. This preliminary research interrogates the knowledge produced by international development evaluation systems from the perspective of the people charged with producing the data - evaluation specialists. I will present data from interviews with three specialists affiliated with USAID contractors and discuss tentative conclusions in relation to sociological theory on quantification. Despite evaluation's stated goal to find 'what really works' in development, these specialists describe a system where failure is constantly edited out and ambiguity ignored. While these professionals aspire for alternative procedures, they participate in the daily realities of reporting under deadlines. I approach this topic from the perspective that transnational evaluation systems play an increasingly powerful role in a web of neocolonial relations.