Developmental Evaluation

Here we are. My first theory submission. I’ll start with Developmental Evaluation (DE). In my experience what most people most dislike about evaluation is that it’s rarely an organizational priority, and when it is, it isn’t created as a specific staff position. Rarely do you see “Evaluation Manager” or “Evaluation Lead” as job titles. Usually evaluation gets placed on somebody’s already busy task list. Not-for-profit organizations already running at peak capacity are basically forced into this situation. Enter DE. DE is a way of doing evaluation that is baked into the programming itself. Unlike traditional evaluation, such as summative evaluation which takes place when a program reaches its end, or formative evaluation which takes place while the program is running and which is similar to DE but with some very important differences. I will point out here briefly, that as far as formative evaluation goes, the evaluative agenda is fixed, and the success of the evaluation depends largely on whether the program attains the deliverables that were pre-determined prior to the start of the program. DE suits the realities of innovative projects that tend to progress in a less than linear fashion, and maybe more zig-zag, or back and forth. DE is best suited for these types of projects and this means many if not all of the software projects I’ve been involved in could have benefited from DE, and I would guess that many of tech’s emerging methodologies have recognized the need to be more adaptive and agile in real time. But also not-for-profit service delivery projects such as employment workshops, programs seeking innovative resolutions to homelessness and chronic poverty, start-ups seeking to change consumer behaviour towards privatized transport such as cars and plane travel, all can benefit from DE. Why? Why has DE overtaken formative and summative evaluation? Why is DE challenging those evaluation methods that have long been the mainstay of not-for- profit service organizations, charities and even private sector business? To be continued.

Randy Terada
Centre for Social Innovation Annex
720 Bathurst St.

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