Developmental Evaluation is an approach to evaluation that is well-suited for projects and initiatives that address socially-complex topics, such as poverty, safe communities, or environmental degradation. Traditional evaluation approaches assesses adherence to a pre-determined plan of action and measures success by goals decided upon before the project started: this approach is less than ideal for social innovations where the overall vision may be clear (e.g. “Address the root causes of poverty in our community”) but the means to reach that goal will depend on a number of factors based on the local context that may change dramatically. In these situations, the developmental evaluator helps social change agents by identifying assumptions, bringing data to the group and facilitating discussion around the meaning of this information for future action, and chronicling key decision points, successes, and failures, with a focus on supporting the ongoing development of a program or project.
Further information on Developmental Evaluation:
- The McConnell Foundation has two free PDF’s on Developmental Evaluation – a primer and a guide for practitioners
- Michael Quinn Patton has written a handbook on Developmental Evaluation, covering theory, methods, and case examples
- Previously-written posts about Developmental Evaluation:
- My posts from the American Evaluation Association conference, in particular Day 1 and Day 2
- The book Getting to Maybe has been described as the theory behind the practice of Developmental Evaluation. Check my responses to individual chapters of the book – the Stand Still chapter focuses on research specifically