Developmental Evaluation (DE) is an evaluation approach that can assist social innovators develop social change initiatives in complex or uncertain environments. DE originators liken their approach to the role of research & development in the private sector product development process because it facilitates real-time, or close to real-time, feedback to program staff thus facilitating a continuous development loop.
Michael Quinn Patton is careful to describe this approach as one choice that is responsive to context. This approach is not intended as the solution to every situation.
- Development evaluation is particularly suited to innovation, radical program re-design, replication, complex issues, crises
- In these situations, DE can help by: framing concepts, test quick iterations, tracking developments, surfacing issues.
This description is from Patton (2010) Developmental Evaluation. Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use…
“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.”
Patton (2006) explains the differences between traditional and developmental evaluation. A summary version of these differences is presented below:
Source: Patton (2006)p.30
FAQ about Developmental Evaluation
1. How do you budget for a developmental evaluation, given that its design is emergent? Interview with Michael Patton.http://betterevaluation.org/sites/default/files/Budgeting%20for%20Develo…
- Developmental Evaluation. Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use – In this book, Michael Quinn Patton describes how to conduct evaluations using the DE framework. By using a range of case studies, stories and cartoons, he demonstrates how DE can be used for a range of different evaluation purposes. (375 Pages)
- A practitioner’s guide to developmental evaluation – this book highlights some of the key practices of Developmental Evaluation (DE) by exploring a three year multi-site case study of developmental evaluations. Furthermore, It offers suggestions for implementing DE in a range of situations and includes a variety of resources to help with its facilitation. (77 Pages) (J.W. McConnel Family Foundation)
- A developmental evaluation primer – this book uses a range of innovative case study examples to demonstrate the basic ideas of DE and its implementation. It also highlights the essential skills of the developmental evaluator and some of the many tools that can be used to support its implementation. (69 Pages) (J.W. McConnel Family Foundation)
- Developmental evaluation compared with r&d – Michael Quinn Patton discusses the relationship between developmental evaluation and the research and development process and suggests that the use of DE in public policy can play a similar role to R&D in the private sector by assisting innovation and experimentation. (total running time: 2 mins)
- Developmental evaluation as alternative to formative assessment– Michael Quinn Patton outlines the differences between developmental, formative and summative evaluation by describing DE as an evaluation for a developing or emerging initiative while summative and formative evaluation are used to examine established programs. (total running time: 3 mins)
- Planning and Evaluating for Social Change: An Evening at SFU with Michael Quinn Patton – in this presentation, Michael Quinn Patton focuses on the changing landscape of evaluation through the use of examples and interactive exercises in order to demonstrate how a developmental evaluation framework can be used to connect people and create more effective social change strategies. (total running time: 1.5 hrs)
- Developmental evaluation – this webpage provides links to six audio files of an interview between Mark Cabaj and Michael Patton on development evaluation in which they discuss: the power of evaluation thinking; the value of evaluation in developmental situations; the what & why of “patch evaluation”; and concepts & tools for working with developmental evaluation (total running time: 8 mins)
Patton, M.Q. (2006) Evaluation for the Way We Work. The Nonprofit Quarterly. Vol. 13 (1): 28-33. Retrieved via http://www.scribd.com/doc/8233067/Michael-Quinn-Patton-Developmental-Evaluation-2006
Patton, M. Q. (2010) Developmental Evaluation. Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use. Guilford Press, New York. Retrieved via http://tei.gwu.edu/courses_approaches.htm#developmental_evaluation.
Developmental Evaluation. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2017, from http://betterevaluation.org/en/plan/approach/developmental_evaluation