Dip into Developmental Evaluation

What are you learning as you try out this new idea? What does your learning mean? What does it tell us about whether we’re on the right track or not? How is the learning useful to you, to this project and to your stakeholders? These are the types of questions that are important to ask often and effectively when an idea or initiative is ‘in development’.

Developmental evaluation (DE) is a particular approach to assessing the growth and effects of new ideas and actions. It shines a light on learning that is useful and can enhance impact. This DE primer, by DE specialist Jamie Gamble, provides a good introduction, whether you’re an evaluator, a practitioner, a funder or anyone interested in effectively supporting new ideas for social change.

DE is a highly effective practice based on concepts such as systems thinking and complexity theory. It is not meant to replace traditional evaluation methods but rather to offer an alternative evaluation process tailored for emerging ideas and experimental initiatives. Considered the world’s expert on DE, Michael Quinn Patton writes;

“Developmental Evaluation fills one niche in the evaluation universe. It is one source of light in an evaluation sky rich with glimmering objects.”

Initiatives, and the evaluators they choose to work with, need to think carefully about the particular form of evaluation they want to employ and consider what would be the right fit for their needs and purposes. The SiG partnership is fortunate to work often with Michael Patton to offer presentations, education and training on Developmental Evaluation; he is also a guest lecturer in the Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation. In Michael’s latest book, one of the critical points he explores is the notion of “fit” by looking at 5 different types of DE.

In a 2013 webinar Michael introduces people to the world of DE and goes through the 5 types in greater detail.

SiG was delighted to host Michael Quinn Patton in 2010 for a speaking event to coincide with the release of his newest book, Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use. Click on the image below to listen to a podcast of the event.