Developmental Evaluation Primer

This document introduces the concept of developmental evaluation to potential users and provides some tools to support its use.

Developmental evaluation supports the process of innovation within an organization and in its activities. Initiatives that are innovative are often in a state of continuous development and adaptation, and they frequently unfold in a changing and unpredictable environment. This intentional effort to innovate is a kind of organizational exploration. The destination is often a notion rather than a crisp image, and the path forward may be unclear. Much is in flux: the framing of the issue can change, how the problem is conceptualized evolves and various approaches are likely to be tested. Adaptations are largely driven by new learning and by changes in participants, partners and context.

The work to explore developmental evaluation was part of the SSI Initiative, a two year collaboration (2005–2006) between The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, DuPont Canada, and the PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship. Its purpose was to examine the capacity of social innovation to address intractable social problems in Canada. The three organizations saw developmental evaluation as a means to track the methods and procedures involved in social innovation, processes that are often difficult to evaluate. The practice of developmental evaluation was further refined in a series of developmental workshops. Examples from the experiences of the workshop participants can be found throughout this text.

A special thanks to Michael Quinn Patton for his insight, guidance and contribution to this work and to the group of evaluators who were part of the workshops. Their ideas and perspectives made a major contribution to this document.

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