Results Based Performance


Good morning, everyone. It’s such a delight to be here today to see this organization thriving, when I remember how hard it was, just a few years ago, to get environmental evaluation off the ground. My subject this morning is the problem of tackling complexity in evaluation, of trying to find some magic thread, like the one Ariadne gave Theseus, to get us through this Minotaur’s maze of surrounding issues that it seems we have to confront. Now, these issues — like the history of a cultural, social, economic or environmental problem, or the politics and policies of a particular period, or the battling theories of an intellectual climate, or the spillover of a subject area into bordering fields – these issues are complex, but they’re hardly new. In fact, they’ve been with us since the first agricultural evaluations, but the truth is, we haven’t paid a lot of attention to them. Perhaps we just didn’t see their relevance to our work; perhaps we were a little bit mesmerized by those methodological tunnels we love to dig; or perhaps we simply hadn’t grasped the power of these issues to affect our credibility.

Subheading in Body Copy

So evaluation has always required consideration of the factors surrounding its subject matter. And because the methodological choices for an evaluation spring precisely from the careful analysis of these factors, evaluators need to recognize their relevance and integrate them into the blood and bones of the work in progress.

That’s what i wanted to talk to you about today: the possibility of finding a reasonably practical, feasible way to navigate these complexities. We need some sort of checklist to make sure we keep track of the key external factors likely to affect an evaluation, and then use them and their interactions to shape both the evaluation question and the methodology that flows from it. It’s a good time to do this, I think, first because there’s an increasing awareness of the systemic way in which these factors interact to influence an evaluation, and also, perhaps, a greater willingness on our part to try to find ways to deal with that. This is true in a number of evaluation fields: for example, Atul Gawande’s new book, “The Checklist Manifesto,” in which he devises a 19-item checklist that appears deceptively simple, but is structured so as to encompass the inter-related factors of a patient’s health status as they apply to a medical intervention, with the purpose of maintaining proper sequence, avoiding error, and continuously integrating the medical needs of the patient and the dynamic requirements of surgery as it’s carried out in hospital operating rooms. (Gawande, 2010)

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