Michael Patton gave a great talk today at AEA13 on the State of Developmental Evaluation. Here are some highlights.
1. The ‘Doors’ to Discovering Developmental Evaluation.
Patton observed that developmental evaluators and clients typically arrive at DE through multiple doors. One door through which people arrive at DE are those engaged in innovation. The second door through which people arrive at DE are those seeking systems change. The third door through which people arrive at DE are those dealing with complexity. The final door through which people arrive at DE are those working with unstable, changing context.
Driving this ‘search for the alternative’ are evaluation users’ desire for a compatible evaluation framework.
2. DE is becoming a bonafide approach.
AEA 13 features over 30+ sessions on developmental evaluation.
The Australasian Evaluation Society recently awarded their Best Policy and Evaluation Award to a crew of developmental evaluators.
(The CES awarded its best student essay to an empirical research on understanding the capacity of DE for developing innovative program.)
3. DE is best enabled by clients who are willing to explore and experiment.
4. DE is methods-agnostic, and in fact, defies prescription.
Patton emphasized the importance of operating from the principles of DE and applying and adapting them when conducting DE. (Another way of looking this is to frame DE as engaging in inquiry… this might actually make a nice blog post).
Participants raised some great questions during the Q&A session. Part of the confusion, it seems to me, lies in the more subtle aspects to how and why Developmental Evaluation might be more appropriate/useful in some contexts. This confusion arises because of how necessarily responsive developmental evaluation is by design. The on-ramping for someone who hasn’t done DE, but wants to do it, can be difficult. So, I wonder if there might be a place for a clearinghouse of sort for frequently asked questions—i.e. the sort often asked by newcomers.