Developmental Evaluation — compliments a adaptive innovation process
Social problems are in general complex in comparison to complicated and simple problems as formulated by David Snowden. We have to use an adaptive process for solving it and through that we will define the problem and the solution.
Innovation for social change requires tools and frameworks that support the process. Evaluation is a key component of this process. Evaluation helps us answer whether the program makes any difference.
In a adaptive process while you are prototyping and experimenting various interactions, tools and scenarios — things change. The summary evaluation though useful is not available when you need it. What we need is a way to understand whether the current experiment is working.
Here is where developmental evaluation is a useful tool. In the kind of innovation process that I use this is clearly the best framework.
Patton is the pioneer in this space and thus is what he says.
“Developmental Evaluation supports innovation development to guide adaptation to emergent and dynamic realities in complex environments. Innovations can take the form of new projects, programs, products, organizational changes, policy reforms, and system interventions. A complex system is characterized by a large number of interacting and interdependent elements in which there is no central control. Patterns of change emerge from rapid, real time interactions that generate learning, evolution, and development — if one is paying attention and knows how to observe and capture the important and emergent patterns. Complex environments for social interventions and innovations are those in which what to do to solve problems is uncertain and key stakeholders are in conflict about how to proceed.”