Democratic Evaluation

Democratic Evaluation is an approach where the aim of the evaluation is to serve the whole community. This allows people to be informed of what others are doing and sees the evaluator as someone who brokers the process. It generally focuses on inclusive practices which foster participation and collaboration.  However it is also used as a means of ensuring public accountability and transparency.

Anders Hanberger, in his paper Democratic governance and evaluation outlines Barry MacDonald’s (1996) discussion of the differences between autocratic, bureaucratic and democratic evaluations. 

'According to MacDonald autocratic evaluation is an evaluation approach that serves government agencies in control over the allocation of resources and “it offers external validation of policy in exchange for compliance with its recommendations” (ibid:133). The evaluator is conceived as an expert advisor and a contract guarantees the evaluator’s independence and ownership of the study. In contrast, a bureaucratic evaluation provides “unconditional service to those government agencies which have major control over the allocation of educational resources.” The evaluator accepts the values of the office holders and undertakes an evaluation that is credible to the policy-makers. The evaluation is in this model owned by those who hold office and it is kept and “lodged in its files”, whereas the autocratic evaluation is also published in academic journals. However, MacDonald does not conceive these approaches to be democratic at all. Instead, he suggests a democratic evaluation approach which provides service to the whole community. “The basic value is an informed citizenry, and the evaluator acts as a broker in exchanges of information between groups who want knowledge of each other” (ibid:134). The key concepts of MacDonald’s democratic evaluation are “confidentiality,” “negotiation,” and “accessibility”. MacDonald also discusses the interplay between evaluation and democracy explicitly and stresses the role of evaluation as “challenging monopolies of various kinds – of problem definition, of issue formulation, of data control, of information utilisation”(MacDonald, 1978: 12). To him the democratic evaluator’s role is first of all to help “all our peoples to choose between alternative societies” (ibid.) and to provide “a disinterested source of information about the origins, processes and effects of social action” (ibid.). Basically, these recommendations support a discursive or deliberative democracy"' (Hanberger, 2004)

(Hanberger, 2004, p.13)



  • What is democratic evaluation?: This article from Robert Picciotto provides an overview of democratic evaluation, particularly with reference to its use in the European Union context.


  • Democratic governance and evaluation: This paper by Anders Hanberger offers a discussion centred around the evaluation of three general democratic governance models and the implications of leading democratic evaluations.



Hanberger , A. (2004, October). Democratic governance and evaluation. Sixth EES (European Evaluation Society) conference, Berlin, Germany. Retrieved from



chadtgreen's picture
Chad T. Green

I view AEA's historical approach to federal evaluation policy as an elitist orientation. What steps can be taken to make it more discursive in nature, or what I prefer to call "as the people"?


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