I have heard “Developmental Evaluation” (DE) described many, many different ways since Michael Quinn Patton coined the term in his 2010 book of the same name.
According to some of these descriptions: it’s a way to record our journey so far; it’s about “developmental moments”; it’s rapid feedback; it’s action learning re-packaged; and/or it’s the same as formative evaluation, linked to innovative and complexity which can be used to achieve scale and so on.
When Patton described DE in 2010 he was explicit about its relationship to innovation:
“Developmental Evaluation supports innovation development to guide adaptation to emergent and dynamic realities in complex environments.”
Buzz-word bingo aside, the key here is innovation, which is why in 2016 in Developmental Exemplars he again talks about the innovation niche for developmental evaluation:
“DE documents, interprets and provides feedback about both the processes and outcomes (products) of innovation”.
But is it more than this? Or is this it?
Personally, I have gravitated towards DE as an approach to support innovators do their work better: to help them get feedback into their processes quickly, with rigour and standards. It’s a method that enables a process and discipline that links the questions, the hypotheses, the measures, the data collection and the analysis in a way that supports the development of innovation – or put simply: it supports innovation to move forward. The process is underpinned by a mindset of appreciative inquiry that pushes our innovators onwards and provides data and evidence for their findings and solutions.
That’s why at a time when more and more organisations and funders are taking up Developmental Evaluation, I’m excited to be holding a Masterclass on 25th November to discuss the what and how of DE.
Leading the workshop will be Dr Jess Dart, myself, my colleague and friend Anna Powell AND Kate McKegg, who will also be dropping in to share her experience.
At the Masterclass Jess will present the latest thinking on Developmental Evaluation hot off the press from Quinn Patton’s workshop in AEA Conference in Washington, including his working definition.
We’ll also use the session as an opportunity to delve into a number of DE case studies from Australia and New Zealand, identifying challenges, raising questions and together posing solutions and principles for these case studies.
I’m looking forward to the chance to discuss what Developmental Evaluation offers us, and would love practitioners to come along and contribute to this new and exciting field of work. Register your interest today!