• Liberty-Focused Evaluator

Should Evaluators "Take Risks" for Climate Change?

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

An article by Williams, Dickman, and Smurthwaite (2021) published in the American Journal of Evaluation suggests that grand systemic changes in society need to occur to prevent the impending climate crisis. Evaluators are supposed to play an important role in facilitating this change. The authors note that one thing that organizations and evaluators must do to promote this systemic change is to "act with audacity and accept risk, disappointment, and failure" (p. 98). They argue that even though evaluators and organizations fear failure, they should have "a reasonable level of tolerance and acceptance for taking risks" (p. 99). The question I have is just who bears the brunt of evaluators' risk-taking? The article seems to imply that it is the evaluators and organizations who may suffer the most because creating a program or policy that doesn't work may harm them professionally. What is forgotten is that those who truly suffer from bad policy are not policy-makers or the evaluators, but the citizens who are subject to that policy or whose money was confiscated through force to pay for it. A libertarian evaluator would strongly disagree with Williams, Dickman, and Smurthwaite that evaluators should take risks with policies that violate private property rights. Evaluators and policy-makers should instead take even fewer risks with their constituent's money unless they are being funded by voluntary contributions and those who participate in the program or policy do so willingly. The only transformational systemic change that a libertarian evaluator would support are those policies that significantly reduce the power of the State to violate individual liberty and private property rights. Unfortunately, discussions of the importance of these rights in evaluation circles are almost non-existent.


Williams, A., Dickman, J., & Smurthwaite (2021). Advancing evaluation and learning on transformational change: Lessons from the Climate Investment Fund's transformational change learning partnership. American Journal of Evaluation, 42(1), 90-109.

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