Developmental Evaluation

Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use

Michael Quinn Patton

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June 14, 2010
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Developmental evaluation (DE) offers a powerful approach to monitoring and supporting social innovations by working in partnership with program decision makers. In this book, eminent authority Michael Quinn Patton shows how to conduct evaluations within a DE framework. Patton draws on insights about complex dynamic systems, uncertainty, nonlinearity, and emergence. He illustrates how DE can be used for a range of purposes: ongoing program development, adapting effective principles of practice to local contexts, generating innovations and taking them to scale, and facilitating rapid response in crisis situations. Students and practicing evaluators will appreciate the book's extensive case examples and stories, cartoons, clear writing style, "closer look" sidebars, and summary tables. Provided is essential guidance for making evaluations useful, practical, and credible in support of social change.

See also Developmental Evaluation Exemplars, edited by Michael Quinn Patton, Kate McKegg, and Nan Wehipeihana, which presents 12 in-depth case studies.

“Draws together sophisticated concepts and models from an extraordinary array of disciplines, such as ecology, business, sociology, and international development. It includes the work of thought leaders and practitioners from around the globe and is explicit about the need for more collaboration and input to continuously inform and develop this evaluation framework. Seasoned readers of Patton's earlier works will instantly recognize the classic Patton style, complete with rich narrative stories, wry wit, and clever cartoonstrappings purposefully used to not only engage the reader, but also bring about clearer understanding and meaning....This book is a must-read for any evaluator, as it will change the way you see the world around you and how you view and conduct your practice.”

Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation


“Patton is the originator of developmental evaluation, and his decades of experience in the broader context of utilization-focused evaluation...radiate throughout the text, providing a rich source for evaluators at all levels of expertisethe reader is in good hands....A rich text, brimming with Patton's years of experience and the wisdom of his esteemed colleagues....Patton writes with emotion and effectively meshes storytelling with fundamentals to deepen the reader's understanding of developmental evaluation. For newcomers to the field, experienced evaluators, and social innovators alike, this book can serve to instill excitement about program evaluation and a broadened sense of its usefulness for creating social change.”

Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology


“Proust wrote that 'the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.' In this book, Patton brings new eyes to evaluation landscapes. He illustrates the distinct contribution that developmental evaluation can make in addressing the dynamic complexity that often challenges evaluation efforts. Evaluators will see themselves among the stories Patton shares. The concepts and ideas are accessible and the case examples provide a diverse array of teachable vignettes, making the book ideal for classroom use. This is a most enjoyable read that offers lots of new learning, even for an evaluation veteran!”

—Ann M. Doucette, PhD, Director, The Evaluators’ Institute, The George Washington University


“There is a real hunger for this book among social innovators, funders, policymakers, and educators. The book is sure to become dog-eared as it is read, used, and reread to help evaluators conduct their work in a manner consistent with the complexity of the challenges they are addressing.”

—Brenda Zimmerman, PhD, Director, Health Industry Management Program, Schulich School of Business, York University, Canada


“In true Michael Quinn Patton style, this book successfully extends both the theory and practice of evaluation in significant and timely ways. Solutions to the world’s most pressing social problems are neither predictable nor known; developmental evaluation is just what the field needs to evaluate the complex realities of today’s organizations and communities. This book is a 'must read' for anyone committed to understanding how, where, when, and for whom social innovations are achieving their goals.”

—Hallie Preskill, PhD, Executive Director, Strategic Learning and Evaluation Center, FSG Social Impact Advisors, Seattle, Washington


“Patton pulls back the curtain to reveal that there is no great Oz of evaluation. This book reminds us that when we are working in complex systems we are better off acknowledging how little we know from the outset—and then acting on continual feedback—rather than pretending we already have all the knowledge needed to succeed. Patton challenges evaluators to relentlessly adapt, react, change, and innovate to work toward the best outcomes.”

—John B. Bare, PhD, Vice President, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia

Table of Contents

1. Developmental Evaluation Defined and Positioned sample

*The Distinction Emerges

*Facing Complexity and Facing Reality: Or, Facing the Realities of Complexity

*Developmental Evaluation and Complexity Theory

*Developmental Evaluation and Single-Loop versus Double-Loop Learning

*The Importance of Interpretive Frameworks

*Developmental Evaluation as Utilization-Focused

*Charting the Developmental Journey: Overview of the Book

*Five Developmental Evaluation Purposes and Uses

2. Developmental Evaluation as a Distinct Purpose and Niche

*Beyond Planning: Jumping into the Fire

*Evaluation Questions under These Different Engagement Scenarios

*Vision Encounters Reality: The Territory of Developmental Evaluation

*Systems Issues: Boundary Management as a Developmental Evaluation Focus

*Developing Innovations versus Improving and Testing Models: Developmental Evaluation Distinguished from Formative and Summative Evaluation

*Ongoing Development Informed by Developmental Evaluation

*Strategic Thinking and Developmental Evaluation

*The Niche of Developmental Evaluation: Chapter Overview and Summary

3. Thinking Outside Evaluation’s Boxes

*Creative Evaluation

*Of Plums and Prunes

*History and Biography as Context: The Personal Factor

*More History and Biography as Context

*Fundamental Principles

*Developmental Evaluation in Context

*External Evaluators and Developmental Evaluation

*Ten Key Points about Developmental Evaluation Illustrated by the Caribbean Example

4. Situation Recognition and Responsiveness: Distinguishing Simple, Complicated, and Complex

*Detecting Patterns

*Detecting Complexity as a Distinct Pattern and Territory for Inquiry

*The Challenges of Situation Recognition

*A Situation Recognition Heuristic: Distinguishing Simple, Complicated, and Complex

*Situational Evaluation: Implications for Practice

*Variations on a Theme: The Cynefin Framework

5. Systems Thinking and Complexity Concepts for Developmental Evaluation

*From Train Brakeman to Locomotive Engineer to Evaluation Champion

*Project SleepBetter

*Systems Thinking

*Complexities of Complexity

*Useful Complexity Constructs for Developmental Evaluation

*Complexity-Sensitizing Concepts

6. How the World Is Changed: A Dialectic with Thesis and Antithesis and Developmental Evaluation as the Synthesis

*Competing Perspectives on How the World Is Changed

*The Top-Down Approach

*Adaptation versus Replication: Principles for Developmental Evaluation

*Best Practices versus Effective Principles

*From the Grass Roots to the Adaptive Middle

*Alternative Approaches to Change

*Developmental Evaluation: The Action in the Muddled Middle

*Looking Back and Looking Forward

*Appendix 6.1. Positioning and Contrasting Developmental Evaluation with Other Evaluation Approaches

7. The Adaptive Cycle and Developmental Evaluation

*Some Context for Understanding the Adaptive Cycle: Poetry, Ecology, Sociology, Business, and Evaluation

*The Complexity Doorframe Redux

*Five Developmental Evaluation Purposes and Uses

*Resilience and Developmental Evaluation

*A Strategic Approach to Resilience: Engineering Resilience versus Ecosystem Resilience

*The Adaptive Cycle

*The Adaptive Cycle and Psychosocial Regimes

*Evaluation and the Adaptive Cycle

*Through the Looking Glass of the Adaptive Cycle: Examples of Organizational and Program Cycles

*Transitions and Traps

*Taking an Innovation to Scale: Challenges and Traps in Cross-Scale Change

*Panarchy: Cross-Scale Interactions

*Panarchy-Informed Evaluation: The Fact of a Doorframe

8. Developmental Evaluation Inquiry Frameworks

*Frameworks for Developmental Evaluation Inquiry

*Developmental Evaluation Inquiry Frameworks: Ten and Counting . . .

9. Developmental Evaluation Bricolage: Reflective Practice, Sensitizing Concepts, Action Research, Abduction, Systems Change, and Retrospective Developmental Evaluation

*Reflective Practice for Developmental Evaluation Inquiry and Engagement

*Sensitizing Concepts as a Focus for Reflective Practice and Developmental Evaluation

*Kia ora

*Action Research and Developmental Evaluation

*Intersections of Developmental Evaluation and Action Research: A Distinguished Evaluation Pioneer Reflects

*Reasoning and Developmental Evaluation

*In Praise of Methodological Diversity and Appropriateness: A Methods and Tools Rant

*Systems Change and Developmental Evaluation

*Retrospective Developmental Evaluation

*Damiano’s Retrospective Developmental Evaluation

*Developmental Evaluation Bricolage

10. Utilization-Focused Developmental Evaluation: Engagement Practices, Diverse Designs, and Adaptive Methods

*Different Kinds of Developmental Evaluation

*Diversity of Design and Methods Options

*Utilization-Focused Developmental Evaluation

*Ten Utilization-Focused Developmental Evaluation Design Examples

*Developmental Evaluation Engagement, Design, and Methods Summary

*The First Developmental Evaluation: A Creation Story


About the Author

Michael Quinn Patton is an independent organizational development and program evaluation consultant. A former President of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), he teaches regularly in AEA’s professional development workshops, The Evaluators’ Institute, and The World Bank’s International Program in Development Evaluation Training. Dr. Patton is a recipient of the Myrdal Award for Outstanding Contributions to Useful and Practical Evaluation Practice from the Evaluation Research Society and the Lazarsfeld Award for Lifelong Contributions to Evaluation Theory from the AEA.

Audience

Instructors and graduate students in education, psychology, sociology, management, social work, nursing, and public policy; applied researchers who do evaluations.

Course Use

Will serve as a core or supplemental text in graduate-level courses in evaluation, social research methods, program planning, and management consulting.