Developmental Evaluation is like dating!

(I attended a short course on Developmental Evaluation facilitated by Carolyn Camman and Rita Fierro and hosted by Amy Lenzo and Rowan Simonsen from Beehive Productions and excellent graphic visualisation during the course. The course provided insights on how to evaluate in complexity and apply developmental evaluation in one's practice.) 

When to use Developmental Evaluation? 

Developmental Evaluation is like dating, described Michael Patton in a lighter vein during a video interview in the course. When a couple starts dating, it is hard to say how the relationship will progress and what will be the outcome. Whether there will be a second date, the couple will live together and eventually memory-hard to predict. This sets the stage for the question when to use Developmental Evaluation- when outcomes are unpredictable, when we work in highly unstable, complex, uncertain and dynamic environments. When you chart your way as you go, its important to track the progress and take corrective measures. Developmental Evaluation is suitable in these kinds of projects/programmes. Patton noted that when process and outcomes are enmeshed with each other. For instance, social capital is at the core of healthy communities; and you get social capital by building healthy social relationships but building the healthy relationships is the social capital. They are not separate stages they are intertwined.

When not to use? When the project or programme is going smoothly when you are in control, set your goals , implement change is very much keeping the project goals in mind. 

Definition- Thus Developmental evaluation “is grounded in systems thinking and supports innovation by collecting and analyzing real-time data in ways that lead to informed and ongoing decision making as part of the design, development, and implementation process.” 

Difference between traditional evaluation and developmental evaluation Why the term- developmental evaluation? Why did Michael Patton coin it? You will have to do the course to know more! Note that it is different from  Development evaluation which is a generic term for evaluations conducted in developing countries.


What methods or tools to use? 

A developmental evaluation can use any kind of data and any kind of focus ( for eg outcome or process). However real time inputs and feedback are essential as the situation changes quickly. Therefore evaluation team works closely with implementation team and hence, the next point is key.

Importance of facilitation and reflexivity

Both the course facilitators Rita and Carolyn underlined that as Developmental  is out of the alternative paradigm in a rapidly changing world, we have to regularly be adaptive. Therefore facilitation skills are critical in facilitating Developmental evaluation. DE involves building trust and relationships. The evaluation team as well as the programme participants need to constantly reflect on what is going on, make meaning out of it and take action accordingly.

Pearls from the workshop ( by the Facilitators)

-emergence is a process, order emerging out of chaos (Peggy Holman), staying in the glump
-don’t throw away evidence too soon
-sensing is a process of deepening your learning
-developmental evaluation means being willing to learn several things at the same time (multi-taskers heaven)

To conclude- DE is a like a red flower!

I conclude with a tweet from Phd scholar Miriam Lo in response to a red flower shared by Rakesh Mohan ( a very experienced evaluator). develop #changes in #uncertain #environments. :)To me, this #redflower represents the #main characteristics of a #developmental #eval: it's living with #naturalresources and it can assist #context innovators ( #bees, #butterflies, #humans


Patton, M. Q. (2010) Developmental Evaluation. Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use. Guilford Press, New York. Retrieved via



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