Evaluation amidst complexity: 8 questions evaluators should ask

Many of Social Dimensions’ assignments concern evaluating a project that wasn’t working as expected.  Often, the reason is for the lackluster or surprising performance is that the implementers were trying to change behaviour within a complex adaptive system.

For the last two years I have been learning about complex adaptive systems and how they facilitate or hinder project success. As an evaluator I have been helping not for profits and donors understand that complexity can be a blessing – not a curse; something to be harnessed instead of squashed.

In this presentation I describe properties of complex adaptive systems and how they affect the success of a project.

I propose eight questions an astute evaluator can ask to uncover if a project is ‘complexity-sensitive’.  The notes to the slides can be read on slideshare here.  They will be useful if the characteristics of complex adaptive behaviours are unfamiliar.

 


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