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Evaluating Intervention

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Evaluating Intervention

In 2006-7, following the publication of Transacting Transition, the project launched two linked follow-on initiatives, under the rubric Evaluating Intervention.

Under the title Evaluating Intervention: Local perspectives on democracy-building in the Post-Yugoslav countries and territories, the project hosted an essay competition, the details of which can be found here (hyperlink to competition webpage.)  with the intention of generating a companion volume to Transacting Transition. The competition was intended to highlight the value of locally-grounded perspectives on international democracy-building efforts in the former Yugoslavia, by promoting the publication of essays by students, scholars, professionals, activists and practitioners in the region which analyze the social, cultural, political or economic dimensions of international involvement in transition.
The competition closed in May 2007. Eight of the original authors were provided with comments from a panel of reviewers and were invited to submit revised versions.  In July 2009, papers by Theodora Vetta, Milica Golubovic and Elton Skendaj were published in a special section of Southeastern Europe Volume 33, entitled “How (not) to export civil society.”  Abstracts of the three papers are currently available (see if you can find them freely available).

Under the title Evaluating Intervention: Knowledge production and democracy promotion in the Western Balkans, project director Keith Brown set out to assess U.S. democracy promotion programs in Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia, analyzing in particular the politics and culture of program evaluation and its double duty as audit process and learning process. Taking as start point the creation of the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1994, and drawing primarily on publicly available project reporting mandated by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993, as well as congressional testimony and U.S. media coverage, the research traced changes and continuities in the explicit theory, methodology and reporting of democracy promotion initiatives, focusing in particular on the extent to which the political, social and economic context of the region informed (or did not inform) programming. By focusing in particular on evaluations - produced in significant numbers, but seldom analyzed closely - the project sought to contribute both to scholarship on the impact of international intervention on the region, and to efforts by government and non-governmental agencies to capture "lessons learned" from a decade of engagement in democracy-building in the region. Its goal was to yield policy-relevant publications which illuminate the ground-level realities behind polemical arguments which rush to judge democracy promotion as either success or failure.

The project ran from 2007-2009 with support from the National Council on Eurasian and East European Research. The project proposal can be accessed here.

Many of the evaluations on which the research was based can be accessed via the USAID DEC website.

The research made clear that these evaluations are produced by able and committed authors.  The evaluations are nevertheless, in the final analysis, commercial products in a competitive business in which different consulting and implementing firms jostle to win and maintain lucrative government contracts.  The evaluation process is often under-resourced, heavily focused on the perspectives of implementers rather than beneficiaries or recipients of assistance programs, and concerned with the fulfillment of short-term metrics rather than longer-term impacts.  The documents appear to play little role in ongoing policy process: They constitute, nonetheless, valuable sources on the enduring structural contradictions of democracy promotion.

The research produced two working papers available online at NCEEER’s library,
"Do We Know How Yet? Insider Perspectives on International Democracy Promotion in the Western Balkans." NCEEER (Working Paper)
“Evaluating US Democracy Promotion in the Balkans: Ironies, Inconsistencies and Unexamined Influences.” NCEEER (Working Paper)
These working papers were published, in revised form, as journal articles

“Do We Know How Yet? Insider Perspectives on International  democracy Promotion in the Western Balkans.” Southeastern Europe 33 (July 2009): 1-25.
“Evaluating U.S Democracy Promotion in the Balkans:  Ironies, Inconsistencies and Unexamined Influences.” Problems of Post-Communism 56: 3 (May/June 2009): 3-15.