Date of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD

Program

School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Leslie Fierro

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Stewart I. Donaldson

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Michael Quinn Patton

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Sebastian Lemire

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© Copyright Nina R. Sabarre, 2021 All rights reserved

Abstract

As a professional service within the knowledge economy, evaluation is a commercial industry as much as it is an academic discipline (Nielsen, Lemire, & Christie, 2018). However, the scholarship and training supporting evaluation practitioners focus primarily on how to conduct evaluation studies with little to no consideration of the business processes that enable the production and exchange of services (Nielsen et al., 2018). In response to the recent call for research on the evaluation marketplace (Hwalek & Straub, 2018; Kinarsky, 2018; Lemire, Nielsen, & Christie, 2018; Nielsen et al., 2018; Peck, 2018), this dissertation study explores the role of entrepreneurship in influencing the supply of and demand for evaluation services and products.

Two phases of research were conducted to empirically investigate the role of entrepreneurship in the evaluation marketplace. First, Phase 1 utilized secondary data analysis to assess the landscape of evaluation entrepreneurship in the United States. Next, Phase 2 leveraged focus groups, surveys, and interviews with both entrepreneurs and commissioners to examine the role of entrepreneurship in influencing evaluation supply of and demand in the philanthropic sector (i.e., foundations and nonprofits), which is identified as a market segment that is advantageous for small businesses.

Findings in Phase 1 demonstrate the differences between entrepreneurship and independent consulting to highlight the unique role of entrepreneurship in shaping consumer expectations, accelerating innovation, creating opportunities for professional evaluators, and differentiating evaluation services from other types of knowledge work. Entrepreneurs differ from consultants in regards to their business structures, level of commitment, personal and financial risk, and the size and scope of their projects.

Phase 2 comprised of two parallel studies; Study 1 captured perspectives of supply, while Study 2 captured perspectives of demand. Phase 2, Study 1 revealed the primary factors that drive evaluation entrepreneurship, including motivation, target market, products and services, business operations, and business development. Entrepreneurs influence other suppliers through three types of influence: evaluation practice (via collaboration, partnership, and peer learning), production and sales of evaluation services (via marketing, differentiating, innovating, adaptation, advancing trends), and business practices (via shared business knowledge and disrupting business norms).

Phase 2, Study 2 revealed the primary drivers of commissioning evaluations: internal evaluation capacity, evaluand and evaluation purpose, and source and amount of funding. Though these contextual factors are mostly out of entrepreneurs’ control, findings suggest that entrepreneurs influence commissioners by: leveraging the interconnected marketplace, establishing a niche, educating and coaching clients to broaden perspectives of evaluation, co- creating opportunities, and cultivating positive experiences.

This research concludes that entrepreneurs have a prominent role in the marketplace, suggesting they also have a responsibility to uphold standards and value of evaluation, especially amid a lack of professionalization of the field and potential tensions between quality andprofitability. This study also explores wider implications of evaluation entrepreneurship as a means to disrupt “business as usual,” dismantle white supremacy in the marketplace, and reimage equity-focused business practices in a way that liberates Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and other evaluators who have been historically excluded from evaluation scholarship, practice, and leadership.

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