How do I get started in evaluating in complexity?

March 16, 2016By Liz Skelton

Mark Cabaj workshop – How do I start developmental workshop?

The purpose of Developmental evaluation is to create, develop or radically adapt a model or approach. Questions we would be asking are what are we learning about the problem or challenge and its context? What are areas of promise? What is our “theory of change” and implications for design? What can we likely expect in terms of outcomes?

Great resource for good resources but use in line with your context in a developmental situation as many of the resources have been developed for traditional evaluation.

For when we don’t have an ‘it’ – we are creating the IT

Getting started: Aides for action

Readiness checklist:

  • Learning culture: treating everything we do as a bet – todays best guess at what we think is going to happen
  • Adaptive authority: do we have authority to try, test, fail and adapt
  • Developmental situation:

We live in a worldview of ‘plan the work, work the plan’ – these are imperfect conditions to tackle complexity.

When you don’t have the conditions:

  1. Don’t proceed – if you don’t have the conditions its ok to say not theyre not ready yet.
  2. Baby steps – start building slowly – build a developmental evaluation
  3. Zucchini muffins – we come up with big designs and we know nobody likes them , not ready for it yet.  We sneak them in in bite size – be the Trojan horse.  Start asking developmental questions?
  4. Cocooning – create conditions for people to try things and experiment, but create a different space or process to protect innovation and development.

User Profile: Surface what the users want to know in an evaluation. Most evaluations are not used, so knowing precisely what funders, innovators etc want or need to know. Maybe the user doesn’t know.

Scope of work: Identify the parameters, boundaries and requirements of the initiative.

Prototyping: small bets on methods before big bets – the environment will change.   When we design big we develop commitment to our approach and get bias, so we make it work even if it doesn’t work. Why prototype – its cheap, fast, low risk, rich learning.


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