Democratic evaluation and democracy: exploring the reality

Democratic evaluation brings a way of thinking about evaluation’s role in society and in particular, its role in strengthening social justice.

The information provided was supplied by Donna Podems, Research Fellow at University of Johannesburg, and Assistant Professor, Michigan State University.  

You can find more information and resources on democratic evaluation on BetterEvaluation's Democratic Evaluation approach page.

Authors and their affiliation

Donna Podems (editor), Research Fellow at University of Johannesburg, and Assistant Professor, Michigan State University

Key features

The book starts with the broader introductory chapters that set the scene for more detailed ones which bring thorough insights into  national  government, local government, and civil societies’ experience of evaluation, democratic evaluation and their understanding of how it contributes to strengthening democracy (or not). A teaching case, the book concludes by providing guiding questions that encourage reflection, discussion and learning that ultimately aims to inform practice and theory.


  • Democratic Evaluation and a New Democracy: Acquaintances, Adversaries, or Allies? Donna Podems. 
  • A Framework for Identifying Entry Points for International Development Evaluation to Enable Responsive Government Policy, Stephen Porter. 
  • How to Democratize Evaluation Practice: A Challenge for Non-Governmental Organizations and Organizations and Donors, Carlisle J. Levine. 
  • The Role of the Civil Society Organization in Promoting Democracy: The Case of the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association, Mark A. Abrahams. 
  • Evaluation and Democratic Governance: The Public Management Perspective, Fanie Cloete. 
  • How Does Government Evaluation in South Africa Contribute to Democracy? Ian Goldman. 
  • Strengthening Democratic Governance in the Building of Integrated Human Settlements Through Evaluations, Matodzi Amisi and Ahmed Vawda. 
  • Living the Rainbow: Furthering Education Quality and Democracy Through the Evaluation of Educational Outcomes Using the Annual National Assessment, Benita Williams and Vanessa Scherman. 
  • Exploring Economic Development Initiatives and the Link to Democratic Outcomes, Mishkah Jakoet and Alyna Wyatt. 
  • Strengthening Government Through Evaluation: The Evaluation Journey of a Provincial Agriculture Department, Dirk Troskie, Kevin Kelly, and Shelton Kaba Mandondo.
  • Paying for Troublemaking: Strengthening Democracy by Institutionalizing Multiple Centers of Evaluation, Terence Beney. 
  • Is Government’s Approach to Evaluation Deepening Democracy in South Africa? Dugan Fraser and Patricia J. Rogers. 
  • How Can Evaluation Strengthen Democracy? Lehn M. Benjamin. 
  • The Teaching Case, Donna Podems.

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

I will use the book when I teach evaluation in short courses or at the University, to be able to ground my students in real-life examples that are not “perfect” exemplars of democratic evaluation but rather provide insight into real-life experiences told from various viewpoints. It’s how learning can take place---to see democratic evaluation in practice, warts and all.  Given the lack of evaluation case studies that exist, I will also use the book to teach evaluation in general, as each chapter offers a plethora of broader lessons. 

Why would you recommend it to other people?

The book provides a practical and honest case study that enables practitioners and students of evaluation to engage in the core discussions needed to understand the reality of applying democratic evaluation in the real world. 


Podems, D. (ed.) (2017). Democratic Evaluation and Democracy: Exploring the Reality. Information Age Publishing. 

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