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Developmental evaluation: A tool to support innovation

Helen McDonald

The term developmental evaluation was coined by Michael Quinn Patton in the mid-1990s to describe the role of evaluators in the development of an innovative initiative. Core evaluation skills, such as articulating the initiative’s theory of change, asking evaluative questions, and providing timely information on emerging results, help the initiative to develop through iterative cycles of learning and adaptation. A growing number of case studies provide valuable insights into the specific situations where developmental evaluation may be useful, the roles and skills required of the evaluator, and the challenges this approach brings. This article provides a concise summary of the insights from theory and case studies to help programme developers and evaluators decide whether and how to use developmental evaluation.

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