After nearly 15 years of working as a community-based evaluation consultant my colleagues and I in the independent consulting world are happening upon an interesting phenomenon. There's a seeming flood of evaluators in the market. At first glimpse this is a wonderful thing in that we've all always wanted the broader market to recognize the field. But, the flood is raising issues facing us all. What is good evaluation and how much should that cost? Standards, guidance, competencies...the professional associations, universities, and accrediting bodies have been working to establish and implement these for decades. The American Evaluation Association is getting closer and closer to releasing the Evaluator Competencies, The Canadian Evaluation Society began a certification process a few years ago, Japan and South Africa are following course. But what do these offer us in terms of how to bill for our services? We are often forced into mandated evaluation budgets created based on past evaluation budgets or required minimum investments in evaluation.
I challenge us to come together however we can and begin to seriously study how to build out evaluation budgets based on known costs and designed to meet client's fullest needs. My independent evaluation consulting colleagues and I are always in a race to the bottom in coming in as the lowest bid. I just don't know that this model is serving anyone well. While I certainly understand not wanting to overpay for services, particularly services that don't actually meet my needs, but I don't think I'd want to line up a row of cardiologists and force them all to bid for my heart surgery. I think I'd rather know enough about my own needs, the real costs associated with the solutions and then be able to select on criteria of past experience, equity, or even sometimes just the right personality fit. Regardless of my choice knowing that I'm getting a highly qualified candidate as well as knowing the person is being compensated appropriately is what really matters.