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Date and time: Monday 25th February 2019. 12.00 - 1.30pm
Topic: Realist axiology
Presenter: Dr Gill Westhorp, Charles Darwin University
Venue: CentraPlaza, Learning Lab 1&2, Ground Floor, 16 Bowes Place, Phillip ACT 2616
Register online by: Thursday 21 February 2019

This is a free event organised by the Canberra Regional Network Committee of the AES. Our seminar series provides an opportunity for you to meet with AES members and others in Canberra and to share and learn from the experiences of fellow evaluators. Members are encouraged to bring along colleagues with an interest in the topic even if they are not yet members of the AES. Please pass this onto your colleagues and networks.

Seminar Overview 

Evaluation is, at its heart, a process of informing decision-making by providing information about the value, worth or merit of interventions, initiatives or innovations.

Over the past 20 years, realist evaluation has wrought a transformation in parts of the evaluation sector by introducing new ways to think about what programs are and how they work. The approach is grounded in a realist philosophy of science, comprising realist ontology (the philosophy of ‘what exists’) and realist epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge.)

However, there has been little significant work to date on realist axiology – the philosophy of value. This presentation will open the axiological black box, enquiring into the ways that a realist understanding of value, values and valuing may inform evaluation. It will present and briefly discuss four questions, each with different implications for evaluation practice:

  • What is axiology and why does (or might) it matter for evaluation?
  • What is the relationship between ‘value’ and ‘values’, and how should that be taken into account in axiology in evaluation?
  • Is there is, or may there be, a philosophical position in relation to value/values and valuing that derives from, or is at least consistent with, realist philosophy?
  • What functions can value/values play in realist analysis – are they contexts, mechanisms, or outcomes?

This presentation is intended to stimulate discussion about an under-developed area of realist evaluation practice. By doing so, it has the potential to transform evaluation practice in ways which may contribute to the transformation of policies and programs.

Presenters background

Dr Gill Westhorp specialises in realist research and evaluation methodologies. She is a Professorial Research Fellow leading the Realist Research Evaluation and Learning Initiative (RREALI) at Charles Darwin University. She is also Director of a private consultancy company specialising in realist research and evaluation. She is currently involved with evaluations in Indigenous affairs, international development, and climate change. Her evaluation interests include useful evaluation of the ‘hard to evaluate’ (prevention programmes, very large-scale programmes and so on), and the integration of the principles of complexity theory in evaluation.

Gill is co-author of the international publication standards and quality standards for realist evaluation and realist literature review. She has provided in excess of 70 training workshops in 14 countries, develops new methods for realist research and evaluation, and publishes in realist methodologies. She is a Fellow of the AES and was a keynote speaker at the AES conference in Canberra in 2017. Now resident in Tasmania, she has previously served as Convenor of the SA Branch, Co-Convenor of the 2012 AES conference, and was an AES Board member.

This is a free Brown Bag Lunch Seminar - co-hosted by the AES Canberra Regional Network Committee and Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C). Please bring your own lunch, or purchase in the Song Lines Cafe.


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