Evaluation 2015: Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World

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Dealing with Complexity in Development Evaluation—Lessons Learned from the Implementation of Complexity-Responsive Development Evaluations

Session Number: 1205
Track: International and Cross Cultural Evaluation
Session Type: Panel
Tags: complexity, International and Cross Cultural Evaluat
Session Chair: Jos Vaessen [UNESCO]
Discussant: Patricia Rogers, PhD [Royal Melb Institute of Technology]
Presenter 1: Heather Britt [USAID/PPL/MECap]
Presenter 2: Juha Uitto [Global Environment Facility]
Presenter 3: Estelle Raimondo [George Washington University]
Time: Nov 13, 2015 (08:00 AM - 09:30 AM)
Room: Columbus H

Abstract 1 Title: Early Lessons Learned from USAID's Complexity-Aware M&E Initiative
Presentation Abstract 1: This presentation provides an update on USAID’s initiative to trial complexity-aware monitoring approaches in Agency-funded programs. The presentation outlines four common challenges that M&E innovators face when adopting complexity-aware approaches to address M&E needs, and explains how USAID supports trial partners to overcome those challenges. For example, USAID is piloting new tools and methods for selecting complexity-aware approaches to meet prioritized M&E needs. The presentation also highlights key learnings from several field-based trials. USAID has instituted an action research study to answer questions about whether and how the complexity-aware approaches add value, and what is required at both the project and organizational level to use them. With two trials nearing their conclusion, and more underway, this is a real-time, front-lines report on what helps and hinders application of systems concepts and approaches in a large, multi-lateral donor.
Abstract 2 Title: The Experience of the Global Environment Facility in the Evaluation of Complex Environmental Protection Initiatives.
Presentation Abstract 2: The Global Environment Facility (GEF) operates in a complex environment supporting complex initiatives aimed at protecting the global environment in developing countries. Interventions operate at levels of policy, legislation, capacity development, creating an enabling environment for environmental protection, and implementation of actions on the ground. There are multiple stakeholders whose goals and aspirations may or may not be consistent with those of the GEF. Evaluations cannot simply focus on the internal logic of the projects but must deal with the interconnectedness between the intervention and its context. Not only does an intervention take place in a specific environment, the intervention itself and the context influence each other in complex ways. Evaluators must understand these interactions. Complexity theory tells us that for the evaluation to be meaningful and manageable, it is important to set the boundaries of what is studied. The selection of methods follows the definition of evaluation questions.
Abstract 3 Title: Dealing with Complexity in Development Evaluation—A Practical Approach
Presentation Abstract 3: This presentation discusses the approach to complexity-responsive evaluation set out in the book “Dealing with complexity in development evaluation: a practical approach”. The presentation is divided into three parts. First, the book’s framework of different dimensions of complexity is presented. Second, a stepwise approach to addressing complexity issues in evaluation planning, design and implementation is discussed. The ways in which interventions work and influence processes of change are inherently complex. Yet, the extent to which complexity should be addressed in an evaluation is dependent on many factors such as the nature of the intervention or the multitude of stakeholders, but also such aspects as the intended use of the evaluation and practical considerations of data and time. Finally, the presentation briefly illustrates how different complexity issues can be addressed with an acceptable level of rigor given the real-world contexts in which most evaluations are conducted.
Audience Level: Intermediate

Session Abstract: 

International development programs are becoming increasingly complex in terms of scope, relations among funding and implementing agencies, the environments in which programs are embedded, and the causal paths through which multiple outcomes are to be achieved.    Development evaluation is struggling to develop new approaches as conventional evaluation designs are not capable of evaluating these complex interventions.    The panel will review lessons from different approaches  to the evaluation of  complex development programs. Heather Britt will discuss USAID’s pilot complexity-aware evaluation Initiative and Juha Uitto will discuss the experience of the Global Environment Facility in the evaluation of complex interventions at different levels and in different regions to protect the global environment.  The third presentation by Estelle Raimondo will review the approach to complexity-responsive evaluation set out in the recently published book “Dealing with complexity in development evaluation: A practical approach”.  Patricia Rogers, the discussant will identify lessons and challenges.


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