Monthly Archives: October 2016

Transformational Development (TD) as a Means of Prevenient Grace

Various Christian traditions acknowledge the concept of prevenient or preceding grace. “Prevenient” means preceding or coming before.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline (2004) defines prevenient grace as “…the divine love that surrounds all humanity and precedes any and all of our conscious impulses. This grace prompts our first wish to please God, our first glimmer of understanding concerning God’s will, and our ‘first slight transient conviction’ of having sinned against God. God’s grace also awakens in us an earnest longing for deliverance from sin and death and moves us toward repentance and faith.”

The overall aim of Transformational Development is to alleviate suffering in ways that witness to God’s love for all people. As Christian development agents work alongside project participants to achieve goals and objectives, the theory is that participants will sense God calling them to know about God’s love for them and to respond to it by deciding to love God and neighbor in culturally appropriate ways.

Thus TD is a means of prevenient grace.

Things Seen and Unseen

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Evaluation is designed to fix our eyes on what is seen by qualified observers. Can this verse that emphasizes the superiority of the unseen have any application in TE?

It is tempting to use this verse to justify the use of constructivist approaches to evaluation that acknowledge the importance of unseen personal perspectives along with things that are seen. But there is a much more important application; the need for discernment in the TE process. Discerning the will of God, as revealed while participating in the evaluation exercise, is one of the consequences of viewing evaluation through the lens of a Christian worldview.

“There are unseen things, as well as things that are seen. And there is this vast difference between them; unseen things are eternal, seen things but temporal, or temporary only. Let us then look off from the things which are seen; let us cease to seek for worldly advantages, or to fear present distresses. Let us give diligence to make our future happiness sure.” (Matthew Henry commentary)

Short-term results based on what is seen is the typical outcome of most evaluations. Recommendations for going forward with the evaluated program are based on those results. In TE such recommendations should emerge from discernment as evaluators and stakeholders reflect on what really matters in community development. Describe recommendations for program improvement, recommendations for better alignment between program and mission, and provocative propositions regarding a better future from an eternal glory perspective.

Objectivity in TE

Objectivity is an essential feature of evaluation. It is more complex in social inquiry than people unfamiliar with relevant literature may realize.

In this post I make the case for objectivity in TE, which is social inquiry, as a process that  involves multiple objective observers who actively engage in rigorous dialogue concerning appropriate data collection, analysis, interpretation, and reporting throughout the inquiry process. The process itself is thoroughly documented and submitted to qualified persons for critique. Bias control and scope of cultural differences, subjected to competent independent verification, are the essential elements of objectivity in TE.

My case for this description is in the attached file. Constructive criticism is welcome.