Enhancing Evaluation Use: Insights from Internal Evaluation Units

Marlène Läubli Loud , John Mayne

John Mayne’s summary (especially for MandE NEWS!)

“The idea for the book was that much written about evaluation in organizations is written by outsiders such as academics and consultants. But in practice, there are those working ‘inside’ an organization who play a key role in helping shape, develop, manage and ultimately make use of the evaluation. The contributions in this book are written by such ‘insiders’. They discuss the different strategies used over a period of time to make evaluation a part of the management of the organization, successes and failures, and the lessons learned. It highlights the commissioners and managers of evaluations, those who seek evaluations that can be used to improve the strategies and operations of the organization. The aim of the book is to help organizations become more focused on using evaluation to improve policies, strategies, programming and delivery of public and communal services.

The chapters cover a wide range of organizations, from government departments in Scotland, new Zealand, Switzerland and Canada, to international organizations such as the World health organization (WHO) and the International labour organization (ILO), to supra-national organizations such as the European Commission.

The book discusses such issues as:

  • The different ways evaluation is set up—institutionalized—in government sectors / organizations, and with what results;
  • why it is so hard to make evaluation a regular aspect of good management;
  • building organizational cultures that support effective evaluation;
  • strategies that are being used to ensure better value for money and enhance utilization of evaluation findings in organizations; and
  • how organizations balance the need for timely, relevant evaluation information with the need for scientific integrity and quality.

The insider perspective and the wide scope of organizations covered is unique in discussion about evaluation in organizations.”

A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences

Gary Goertz & James Mahoney, 2012
Princeton University Press. Available on Amazon

Review of the book by Dan Hirschman

Excerpts from his review:

“Goertz, a political scientist, and Mahoney, a sociologist, attempt to make sense of the different cultures of research in these two camps without attempting to apply the criteria of one to the other. In other words, the goal is to illuminate difference and similarity rather than judge either approach (or, really, affiliated collection of approaches) as deficient by a universal standard.

G&M are interested in quantitative and qualitative approaches to causal explanation.

Onto the meat of the argument. G&M argue that the two cultures of quantitative and (causal) qualitative research differ in how they understand causality, how they use mathematics, how they privilege within-case vs. between-case variation, how they generate counterfactuals, and more. G&M argue, perhaps counter to our expectations, that both cultures have answers to each of these questions, and that the answers are reasonably coherent across cultures, but create tensions when researchers attempt to evaluate each others’ research: we mean different things, we emphasize different sorts of variation, and so on. Each of these differences is captured in a succinct chapter that lays out in incredible clarity the basic choices made by each culture, and how these choices aggregate up to very different models of research.

Perhaps the most counterintuitive, but arguably most rhetorically important, is the assertion that both quant and qual research are tightly linked to mathematics. For quant research, the connection is obvious: quantitative research relies heavily on probability and statistics. Causal explanation consists of statistically identifying the average effect of a treatment. For qual research, the claim is much more controversial. Rather than relying on statistics, G&M assert that qualitative research relies on logic and set theory, even if this reliance is often implicit rather than formal. G&M argue that at the core of explanation in the qualitative culture are the set theoretic/logical criteria of necessary and sufficient causes. Combinations of necessary and sufficient explanations constitute causal explanations. This search for non-trivial necessary and sufficient conditions for the appearance of an outcome shape the choices made in the qualitative culture, just as the search for significant statistical variation shapes quantitative resarch. G&M include a brief review of basic logic, and a quick overview of the fuzzy-set analysis championed by Charles Ragin. I had little prior experience with fuzzy sets (although plenty with formal logic), and I found this chapter extremely compelling and provocative. Qualitative social science works much more often with the notion of partial membership – some countries are not quite democracies, while others are completely democracies, and others are completely not democracies. This fuzzy-set approach highlight the non-linearities inherent in partial membership, as contrasted with quantitative approaches that would tend to treat “degree of democracy” as a smooth variable.”

Earlier paper by same authors available as pdf: A Tale of Two Cultures: Contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative Research
by James Mahoney, Gary Goertz. Political Analysis (2006) 14:227–249 doi:10.1093/pan/mpj017

See also these recent reviews:

See also The Logic of Process Tracing Tests in the Social Sciences by James Mahoney, Sociological Methods & Research, XX(X), 1-28 Published online 2 March 2012

RD comment: This books is recommended reading!

PS 15 February 2013: See Howard White’s new blog posting “Using the causal chain to make sense of the numbers” where he provides examples of the usefulness of simple set-theoretic analyses of the kind described by Mahoney and Goetz (e.g. in an analysis of arguments about why Gore lost to Bush in Florida)

 

On prediction, Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise”

Title The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction
Author Nate Silver
Publisher Penguin UK, 2012
ISBN 1846147530, 9781846147531
Length 544 pages

Available on Amazon Use Google Books to read the first chapter.

RD Comment: Highly recommended reading. Reading this book reminded me of M&E data I had to examine on a large maternal and child health project in Indonesia. Rates on key indicators were presented for each of the focus districts for the year prior to the project started, then for each year during the four year project period. I remember thinking how variable these numbers were, there was nothing like a trend over time in any of the districts. Of course what I was looking at was probably largely noise, variations arising from changes in who and how the underlying data was collected and reported.This sort of situation is by no means uncommon. Most projects, if they have a base line at all, have baseline data from one year prior to when the project started. Subsequent measures of change are then, ideally, compared to that baseline. This arrangement assumes minimal noise, which is a tad optimistic. The alternative, which should not be so difficult in large bilateral projects dealing with health and education systems for example, would be to have a baseline data series covering the preceding x years, where x is at least as long as the expected duration of the proposed project.

See also Malkiel’s review in the Wall Street Journal (Telling Lies From Statistics). Malkiel is author of “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.” While a positive review overall, he charges Silver with ignoring false positives when claiming that some recent financial crises were predictable. Reviews also available in The Guardian. and LA Times. Nate Silver also writes a well known blog for the New York Times.

Approches et pratiques en évaluation de programmes

Nuvelle édition revue et augmentée, Christian Dagenais, Valéry Ridde, 480 pages • août 2012. University of Montreal press

EN LIBRAIRIE À COMPTER DU 20 SEPTEMBRE 2012

Tous les chapitres de cette nouvelle édition ont été écrits par des pédagogues, des enseignants universitaires et des formateurs rompus depuis de longues années à l’exercice du partage de connaissances en évaluation de programmes, tout en mettant l’accent sur la pratique plutôt que sur la théorie. Nous avons ajouté quatre nouveaux chapitres, car les connaissances en évaluation évoluent constamment, sur la stratégie de l’étude de cas, l’évaluation économique, les approches participatives ou encore l’approche dite réaliste. Il manquait dans la première édition des exemples relatifs à l’usage des méthodes mixtes, décrites dans la première partie. Deux nouveaux chapitres viennent donc combler cette lacune.

Un défi essentiel auquel fait face tout enseignant en évaluation est lié à la maîtrise de la grande diversité des approches évaluatives et des types d’évaluation. La seconde partie de l’ouvrage présente quelques études de cas choisies pour montrer clairement comment les concepts qui auront été exposés sont employés dans la pratique. Ces chapitres recouvrent plusieurs domaines disciplinaires et proposent divers exemples de pratiques évaluatives.

Valéry Ridde, professeur en santé mondiale, et Christian Dagenais, professeur en psychologie, tous deux à l’Université de Montréal, enseignent et pratiquent l’évaluation de programmes au Québec, en Haïti et en Afrique.

Avec les textes d’Aristide Bado, Michael Bamberger, Murielle Bauchet, Diane Berthelette, Pierre Blaise, François Bowen, François Chagnon, Nadia Cunden, Christian Dagenais, Pierre-Marc Daigneault, Luc Desnoyers, Didier Dupont, Julie Dutil, Françoise Fortin, Pierre Fournier, Marie Gervais, Anne Guichard, Robert R. Haccoun, Janie Houle, Françoise Jabot, Steve Jacob, Kadidiatou Kadio, Seni Kouanda, Francine LaBossière, Isabelle Marcoux, Pierre McDuff, Miri Levin-Rozalis, Frédéric Nault-Brière, Bernard Perret, Pierre Pluye, Nancy L. Porteous, Michael Quinn Patton, Valéry Ridde, Émilie Robert, Patricia Rogers, Christine Rothmayr, Jim Rugh, Caroline Tourigny, Josefien Van Olmen, Sophie Witter, Maurice Yameogo et Robert K. Yin

Working with Assumptions in International Development Program Evaluation

By Nkwake, Apollo M., with a Foreword by Michael Bamberger.  2013, 2013, XXI, 184 p. 14 illus., 7 in color. Published by Springer and available on Amazon

Publisher description

“Provides tools for understanding effective development programming and quality program evaluations Contains workshop materials for graduate students and in-service training for development evaluators The author brings together more than 12 years of experience in evaluation of international development programs

Regardless of geography or goal, development programs and policies are fueled by a complex network of implicit ideas. Stakeholders may hold assumptions about purposes, outcomes, methodology, and the value of project evaluation and evaluators—which may or may not be shared by the evaluators. Even when all participants share goals, failure to recognize and articulate assumptions can impede clarity and derail progress.

Working with Assumptions in International Development Program Evaluation probes their crucial role in planning, and their contributions in driving, global projects involving long-term change. Drawing on his extensive experience in the field, the author offers elegant logic and instructive examples to relate assumptions to the complexities of program design and implementation, particularly in weighing their outcomes. The book emphasizes clarity of purpose, respect among collaborators, and collaboration among team members who might rarely or never meet otherwise. Importantly, the book is a theoretical and practical volume that:

·          Introduces the multiple layers of assumptions on which global interventions are based.

·          Explores various approaches to the evaluation of complex interventions, with their underlying assumptions.

·          Identifies ten basic types of assumptions and their implications for program development and evaluation.

·          Provides examples of assumptions influencing design, implementation, and evaluation of development projects.

·          Offers guidelines in identifying, explicating, and evaluating assumptions

A first-of-its-kind resource, Working with Assumptions in International Development Program Evaluation opens out the processes of planning, implementation, and assessment for professionals in global development, including practitioners, development economists, global development program designers, and nonprofit personnel.”

Rick Davies comment: Looks potentially useful, but VERY expensive at £85.50 Few individuals will buy it but organisations might do so. Ideally the author would make a cheaper paperback version available. And Amazaon should provide a “Look inside this book” option, to help people decide if spending £85.50 would be worthwhile. PS: I think the publishers, and maybe the author, would fail the marshmellow test

Rick Davies postcript: The Foreword, Preface and Contents page of the book is available as a pdf, here on the Springer website.

See also:


What Causes What & Hypothesis testing: Truth and Evidence

Two very useful chapters in Denise Cummins (2012) “Good Thinking“, Cambridge University Press

Cummins is a professor of psychology and philosophy, both of which she brings to bear in this great book. Read an interview with author here

Contents include:

1. Introduction
2. Rational choice: choosing what is most likely to give you what you want
3. Game theory: when you’re not the only one choosing
4. Moral decision-making: how we tell right from wrong
5. The game of logic
6. What causes what?
7. Hypothesis testing: truth and evidence
8. Problem solving: another way of getting what you want
9. Analogy: this is like that.

Integrated Monitoring: A Practical Manual for Organisations That Want to Achieve Results

Written by Sonia Herrero, InProgress, Berlin, April 2012. 43 pages Available as pdf

“The aim of this manual is to help those working in the non-profit sector — non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other civil society organisations (CSOs) — and the donors which fund them, to observe more accurately what they are achieving through their efforts and to ensure  that they make a positive difference in the lives of the people they want to help. Our interest in writing this guide has grown out of the desire to help bring some conceptual clarity to
the concepts of monitoring and to determine ways in which they can be harnessed and used more effectively by non-profit practitioners.

The goal is to help organisations build monitoring and evaluation into all your project management efforts. We want to demystify the monitoring process and make it as simple and accessible as possible. We have made a conscious choice to avoid technical language, and instead use images and analogies that are easier to grasp. There is a glossary at the end of the manual which contains the definitions of any terms you may be unfamiliar with. This manual is organised into two parts. The first section  covers the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of monitoring and  evaluation; the second addresses how to do it.”

These materials may be freely used and copied by non-profit organisations for capacity building purposes, provided that inProgress and authorship are acknowledged. They may not be reproduced for commercial gain.

Contents
Introduction
I. KEY ASPECTS OF MONITORING
1. What is Monitoring?
2. Why Do We Monitor and For Whom?
3. Who is Involved?
4. How Does it Work?
5. When Do We Monitor?
5. What Do We Monitor?
5.1 Monitoring What We DoII. HOW DO WE MONITOR?
1. Steps for Setting Up a Monitoring S   2. How to Monitor the Process and the Outputs
3. How to Monitor the Achievemen 3.1 Define Results/Outcomes
3.2 Define Indicators for Results
4. Prepare a Detailed Monitoring Plan
5. Identify Sources of Information
6. Data Collection
6.1 Tools for Data Compilation
7. Reflection and Analysis
7.1 Documenting and Sharing
8. Learning and Reviewing
8.1 Learning
8.2 Reviewing
9. Evaluation
Conclusion
Glossary
References

Magenta Book – HM Treasury guidance on evaluation for Central Government (UK)

27 April 2011

“The Magenta Book is HM Treasury guidance on evaluation for Central Government, but will also be useful for all policy makers, including in local government, charities and the voluntary sectors. It sets out the key issues to consider when designing and managing evaluations, and the presentation and interpretation of evaluation results. It describes why thinking about evaluation before and during the policy design phase can help to improve the quality of evaluation results without needing to hinder the policy process.

The book is divided into two parts.

Part A is designed for policy makers. It sets out what evaluation is, and what the benefits of good evaluation are. It explains in simple terms the requirements for good evaluation, and some straightforward steps that policy makers can take to make a good evaluation of their intervention more feasible.

Part B is more technical, and is aimed at analysts and interested policy makers. It discusses in more detail the key steps to follow when planning and undertaking an evaluation and how to answer evaluation research questions using different evaluation research designs. It also discusses approaches to the interpretation and assimilation of evaluation evidence.

The Magenta Book will be supported by a wide range of forthcoming supplementary guidance containing more detailed guidance on particular issues, such as statistical analysis and sampling. Until these are available please refer to the relevant chapters of the original Magenta Book.

The Magenta Book is available for download in PDF format:

An introduction to systematic reviews

Book publishedin March 2012, by Sage. Authors: David Gough, Sandy Oliver, James Thomas

Read Chapter One pdf: Introducing systematic reviews

Contents:

1. Introducing Systematic Reviews David Gough, Sandy Oliver and James Thomas
2. Stakeholder Perspectives and Participation in Reviews Rebecca Rees and Sandy Oliver
3. Commonality and Diversity in Reviews David Gough and James Thomas
4. Getting Started with a Review Sandy Oliver, Kelly Dickson, and Mark Newman
5. Information Management in Reviews Jeff Brunton and James Thomas
6. Finding Relevant Studies Ginny Brunton, Claire Stansfield & James Thomas
7. Describing and Analysing Studies Sandy Oliver and Katy Sutcliffe
8. Quality and Relevance Appraisal Angela Harden and David Gough
9. Synthesis: Combining results systematically and appropriately James Thomas, Angela Harden and Mark Newman
10. Making a Difference with Systematic Reviews Ruth Stewart and Sandy Oliver
11. Moving Forward David Gough, Sandy Oliver and James Thomas

Social Psychology and Evaluation

by Melvin M. Mark PhD (Editor), Stewart I. Donaldson PhD (Editor), Bernadette Campbell PhD (Editor) Guilford Press, May 2011. Available on Google Books.
Book burb “This compelling work brings together leading social psychologists and evaluators to explore the intersection of these two fields and how their theory, practices, and research findings can enhance each other. An ideal professional reference or student text, the book examines how social psychological knowledge can serve as the basis for theory-driven evaluation; facilitate more effective partnerships with stakeholders and policymakers; and help evaluators ask more effective questions about behavior. Also identified are ways in which real-world evaluation findings can identify gaps in social psychological theory and test and improve the validity of social psychological findings–for example, in the areas of cooperation, competition, and intergroup relations. The volume includes a useful glossary of both fields’ terms and offers practical suggestions for fostering cross-fertilization in research, graduate training, and employment opportunities. Each chapter features introductory and concluding comments from the editors.”