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Accountability is a state of, or a process for, holding someone to account to someone else for something —that is, being required to justify or explain what has been done. Although accountability is frequently given as a rationale for doing evaluation, there is considerable variation in who is required to answer to whom, concerning what, through what means, and with what consequences. More important, within this range of options, the ways in which evaluation is used for accountability are frequently so poorly conceived and executed that they are likely to be dysfunctional for programs and organizations.

In its narrowest and most common form, account ability focuses on simple justification by requiring program managers to report back to funders (either separate organizations or the decision makers within ...

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