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Friday, September 21 • 10:00am - 10:30am
Transforming evaluation to better address complexity

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Julie Elliott (RMIT, PHD candidate)

Over the past 20 years, some insights from complexity science have been adopted into evaluation, including applications in Developmental Evaluation, systems approaches in evaluation and realist evaluation. But mainstream evaluation practice, including evaluation tied to Results Based Management and performance management, is largely built upon assumptions that interventions always operate under conditions of equilibrium, outcomes can be predicted in advance and the relationship between cause and effect in linear and unidirectional. 

For many interventions, such as place based initiatives, social change strategies and those that aim to establish conditions to stimulate social innovation, this is not the case. Instead they exhibit the features of Complexity: collective patterns of culture and group identity fold back onto the individuals who formed them through an interplay of connection, interdependence and human agency that is dependent upon memories from the past, learning and anticipation of the future, including second-guessing or out-guessing what others will do. Complexity shifts how we see the world. It replaces 'reductionism' and understands human social interaction as always complex and emergent. 

This paper begins by summarising the initial uptake of some complexity ideas and methods in evaluation. It then sets out some more radical ideas and methods from Complexity Science with potential utility in evaluation. It ends with some suggestions for how the theory and practice of evaluation might be transformed to better address complexity. 

avatar for Matt Healey

Matt Healey

Senior Consultant, First Person Consulting
I've been working as an evaluation consultant since early 2014. In that time I've led over 50 projects spanning sustainability, climate change, public health, health promotion, emergency management, energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste management, innovation... There's probably... Read More →

avatar for Julie Elliott

Julie Elliott

Evaluation enthusiast
I am an independent Canberra-based evaluator currently undertaking a PhD at RMIT

Friday September 21, 2018 10:00am - 10:30am AEST
Conference centre