Further to Thevan’s post on Impact evaluations; here’s an excerpt from a very interesting article on “Evaluation Evolution” posted in the Broker magazine the other day (link to full article below);

Three approaches to evaluation

Evaluation evolution?

Politicians are calling for evaluations that measure the effects of development cooperation. However, good development cooperation focuses on long-term processes that cannot be measured in terms of cause and effect. Alternative approaches to evaluation are needed.

By Otto Hospes 

Development cooperation is one of the most evaluated areas in public policy. Over the past 30 years, several studies of evaluator types and their approaches have been undertaken.1 But there are three approaches that fundamentally characterize and distinguish types of evaluators: evidence-oriented evaluation, which seeks hard evidence; realistic evaluation, which tests how and why outcomes of policy occur; and complexity evaluation, which focuses on the complexity of social issues and governance (see table).

The evidence-oriented approach is the most dominant in development cooperation evaluation, but it is not necessarily the most illuminating. The realistic approach, meanwhile, is mainly applied in the fields of justice, health and social services in European countries. According to some theorists, however, a shift is occurring away from evidence-oriented to realistic and complexity evaluation. The importance of the social and political contexts in which a policy is employed is increasingly recognized. This context is dynamic, complex and multilayered, with many different agencies and networks involved.

Complexity evaluation is related to the more recent use of complexity theory in social science. This emerging approach may provide useful insights to help overcome serious flaws in current evaluation practice, particularly in developing countries.2″

Read more..