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The concept of context figures centrally in all evaluation theories, and the challenges of context are inescapably present in all evaluation practice. Yet, the meanings of context, what dimensions of it are most important, and its role in practice vary substantially across different genres of evaluation. Moreover, the idea of just what context is—how it is conceptualized in various evaluation theories and how it is engaged in diverse evaluation practices—fundamentally differentiates one evaluation approach from another.

Broadly speaking, context refers to the setting within which the evaluand (the program, policy, or product being evaluated) and thus the evaluation are situated. Context is the site, location, environment, or milieu for a given evaluand. It is an enormously complex phenomenon. Many evaluands are implemented in multiple contexts; ...

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