Evaluation and Vulnerable Groups Forgotten Spaces
Vulnerabilities are the consequence of deep-rooted inequities that divide societies. They may be caused or exacerbated by both extrinsic and intrinsic forces. Numerous development interventions attempt to alleviate these vulnerabilities. This chapter will argue that that mainstream development approaches focus on the experience of, rather than sources of, vulnerability. Or, put another way, they focus on the symptoms (vulnerability) rather than the causes (inequity). The author argues that unless we expand our analysis to explore these bigger societal questions, we are left fumbling in a gray zone because we are unable to critically and systematically examine (a) the broader impact of an intervention on the structures of inequality, and more problematically, (b) the possibility that such interventions may reinforce or exacerbate the inequalities and injustice that underpin vulnerability. In Violently divided societies (VDS), evaluation must pay particular attention not only to vulnerabilities deriving from contextual conditions of injustice and inequity, but also to vulnerabilities that may be generated by the process and outcomes of an intervention—including the evaluation of that intervention. To be blunt, we need to be attentive to the possibility that initiatives to alleviate vulnerability may increase or exacerbate vulnerability. Evaluation research will then be able to provide further insight on how evaluation emphasis (or not) on vulnerabilities and inequities influences power differentials and violence.