How Far Dare an Evaluator Go Toward Saving the World?

Published: May 2021

Type: Publication

This article offers raw qualitative data as a supplement to the 2021 article authored by Michael Quinn Patton and published in the American Journal of Evaluation titled: "How Far Dare an Evaluator Go Toward Saving the World? Redux, Update, and a Reflective Practice Facilitation Tool."


In April 2019, the Evaluation Roundtable network convened at the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies in Eden Prairie (Minneapolis), Minnesota. Since the Roundtable’s founding, evaluation in philanthropy has evolved substantially, with major implications for the roles, mindsets, and skills that evaluators who work with foundations now need to bring to their craft.

Because evaluation consultants are responsible for a significant portion of foundations’ evaluative work, the 2019 Evaluation Roundtable convening experimented with inviting 50 experienced evaluation consultants to join 90 foundation evaluation staff as co-learners.

The three-day convening, titled Transitions and Transformations for Evaluation’s Role in Philanthropy, explored how evaluation leaders—working within or with foundations—can manage change not just defensively, but proactively and productively. It focused on the forces that shape evaluation in philanthropy and what they mean for our work. These forces have multiple places of origin—our own organizations, our profession/discipline, the philanthropic sector, and our broader context.

Evaluators are constantly trying to deliver value amidst change. How can we effectively prepare for and manage these transitions while maintaining the quality, rigor, and value of evaluative thinking and data?

Julia Coffman and Tanya Beer, Former Evaluation Roundtable Co-Directors

The convening’s third day focused on broader societal changes that are affecting our profession and our normative standards about the role and purpose of evaluation.

Thomas Schwandt, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, delivered a keynote on Redesigning a Moral Compass for Evaluation. Schwandt is a recipient of the American Evaluation Association’s Paul F. Lazarsfeld Award for Evaluation Theory.

Michael Patton reviewed a 2004 article in the American Journal of Evaluation by Robert Stake titled How Far Dare an Evaluator Go Toward Saving the World? in which Stake listed six things he believes evaluators care about.

What Evaluators Care About: Robert Stake’s List (2004)

  1. We care about the evaluand, the object being evaluated. Often we believe in it.
  2. We care about evaluation. We want to see others care about it.
  3. We advocate rationality. We would like our clients and other stakeholders, our colleagues and heads of department to explicate and be logical and even-handed.
  4. We care to be heard. We are troubled if our studies are not used.
  5. We are distressed by under-privilege. We see gaps among privileged patrons and managers and staff and underprivileged participants and communities. We aim some of the evaluation at studying issues of privilege, conceptualizing issues that might illuminate or alleviate under-privilege, and assuring distribution of findings to those often excluded.
  6. We are advocates of a democratic society. We see democracies depending on the exchange of good information, which our studies can provide. But also, we see democracies needing the exercise of public expression, dialogue, and collective action. Most evaluators try to create reports that stimulate action.
    Source: Stake, 2004, pp. 103-4; emphasis added.

After reviewing Stake’s list, participants were invited to: 1) react to it and suggest revisions if inclined, 2) identify what they care about. After writing their own statements, they shared their “What I Care About” statements in small groups, and then, in closing, with the whole group.

Download the PDF to see participants’ raw data results. A full description of who participated and a discussion of the results has been published as an article in the American Journal of Evaluation titled, How Far Dare an Evaluator Go Toward Saving the World? Redux, Update, and a Reflective Practice Facilitation Tool (Patton, 2021).