This is the title of a blog post I wrote for the International Evaluation Academy. The blog opens with: Evaluators need to know more about complexity because the programs they evaluate often exhibit complex behaviors. Without understanding complexity, evaluators cannot construct models, develop methodologies, and interpret data in ways that accurately describe what programs are … Continue reading Why do Evaluators Need to Understand Complexity?
In recent years, the evaluation community has been looking to “complexity” as a source for addressing these difficulties.
I am involved in a project that involves helping people make a single choice among multiple technologies. They must commit to one, so there is no waffling. This is one more of many such exercises that I have been involved in over the course of my career, and I have never been fully satisfied with any of them. On an intuitive level, everyone knows they cannot make the best choice, but everyone thinks that they should be able to. I finally figured out why they cannot. I don’t mean that people are not smart enough. I mean that it is impossible. The behavior of complex systems makes it impossible.
This chapter draws from complexity science to present a metatheory of transformation that can be applied to discrete theories of change that are constructed to guide model building, methodology, and data interpretation for the evaluation of individual change efforts.