Posts Tagged ‘complexity’

Overcoming existing evaluation cultures and processes

Monday, March 29th, 2010

A post on evaluation and complexity on Rick Davies monitoring and evaluation news site has a link to a great powerpoint on evaluation and the science of complexity by Ben Ramalingam. Ben notes that for many organisations, evaluations are at the centre of a vicious circle that includes pressure to show results and impacts, and poor learning and accountability amongst others.

Further, Ben notes that “Evaluations are still largely focused on reports as opposed to changed behaviours, ways of thinking and attitudes”. This seems very true, and I am sure many of us would recollect knowing of reports that have been produced for the report’s sake, and not what is in it.

A nice slide from Ben Ramalingam's powerpoint

Image source:

The image, taken from one of Ben’s slides, encapsulates well the idea that existing process and culture can overshadow the ability to undertake more effective evaluation.

In another post, Ben notes “Some of the issues for evaluation include the tension between learning and accountability, the limits of attribution, how evaluations are or are not used, equality and power, and ideological debates about methodologies, such as the dominance of randomised controlled trials (RCTs)……Although there is a wealth of evaluation methods in theory, in practice they are largely required to conform to scientific management principles……..In contrast, complexity theory (theories) talks about systems that are interconnected, driven by feedback, where the properties of the system are not predictable but emerge from the relationships within that system……..It may be that we need to stop focusing on projects, and look more broadly at the societies that we work in and across sectors and institutions rather than within them. Evaluations may need to be more centred on real-time learning and helping managers adapt what they do.”

This is what Show me the Change is about- discussing how as a community of practice we can overcome the real or imagined culture that can negatively impact on more novel, experimental, and altogether better evaluation practice and processes.

So if you are interested in evaluation, behaviour change and sustainability in a complex workd, take part in the conversations that matter, on 4-6 May in Melbourne.