Evaluation of development projects - Amartya Sen's viewpoint

Dear friends, 

Last month I attended the annual conference of the Human Capability Development Association (HCDA) in the Hague. Their research work is rooted in the 'Capabilities approach' of which Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum and others are the major architects. 

I just received their last newsletter and the short article on Sen's view on evaluation was really striking for me.

Although this blog is not a direct experience with a local response, I found that what I read here was so much in line with multiple experiences I had all over the world. 

Find attached the newsletter. Maitreyee19_Sep_11.pdf. I refer to the third article in specific. For those with little time, I share some of my favorite quotes: 

As a result, Sen points out, approaches which attempt to provide a consistent 
systematic rule based framework for dealing with all problems that may come up can easily 
be shown to produce absurd or awful conclusions about plausible cases;

Sen’s capability approach,  
does not pretend to yield a ‘decision method’ that could be programmed on a computer. What it does do 
is invite us to think about what functionings form part of our and other cultures’ notions of a good life and 
to investigate just how much freedom to achieve various of those functionings various groups of people
in different situations actually have. 

Sen believes the way we try to address practical problems must reflect their 
underlying complexity rather than attempt to wish it away

It is almost a commonplace in the capability approach literature to say that it is about 
evaluation, though the point is still misunderstood by many serious interpreters and critics. 
Indeed many criticisms of Sen’s capability approach depend on seeing it instead as a theory of 
justice, with ‘a metric and a rule’. 

For the latter, Sen rejects various methods of determining values ‘objectively’, such as 
(Aristotelian or other) perfectionist views of the  good life or the revealed preference 
approaches endorsed by some economists. Instead valuation should be an internal political 
‘exercise in social choice’ that adequately reflects the evaluations of the people concerned, 
characterised by public reason and deliberation

 

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Comment by Anita Rego on October 12, 2011 at 9:39am
Well said.  We try to put square pegs in rounds and vice versa.  We try to believe that what we do is the ultimate right one.
Comment by Dr. Suresh Sundar on October 12, 2011 at 7:21am
Thanks for the posting.  In fact, in the 1990s, the mid-term and terminal evaluation of some USAID funded NGO health projects that many of us consultants undertook, was carried out through a participatory approach.  The exercise though labor intensive, was appreciated by both the NGOs and the funding agencies.
Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on October 11, 2011 at 10:41pm
Thanks Gaston. I shared your write up in my facebook group- India Civil Society. Would you like to post it on India Civil Society ning as well?  http://indiacso.ning.com .Spasiba.
Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on October 11, 2011 at 4:37pm
Thank you Gaston. The last para, in particular supports fully the self assessment process

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