Developmental Eval Week: Ricardo Wilson-Grau on Outcome Harvesting as a Developmental Evaluation Inquiry Framework

I am Ricardo Wilson-Grau, an evaluator based in Rio de Janeiro but working internationally. Increasingly, I am called upon to serve as a developmental evaluator, I have found the concept of “inquiry framework” (Chapter 8 in Developmental Evaluation[1]) to be invaluable for co-creating developmental evaluation questions and agreeing how they will be answered. As Michael Quinn Patton says: “Matching evaluation questions to particular situations is the central challenge in developmental evaluation’s situational responsiveness and adaptability…”.[2]

DE does not rely on any particular inquiry framework, just as its toolbox is open to a diversity of designs, methods and tools. What is appropriate depends on the innovation challenges a project, program or organization faces at a given point in time. For example, with one client I used a complexity inquiry framework to support the two-month design of a regional peace-building initiative in a continent with a track record of failures in similar attempts. Then, we considered these potential frameworks to support the first stage of implementation: a) Driving innovation with principles, b) Focusing on systems change, c) Fomenting collaboration for innovation, d) Confronting wicked problems and e) Outcome Harvesting.

In the light of the nature of the developmental challenge this emerging initiative faced, there were sound reasons for using one or more or a combination of these frameworks. The client’s most pressing immediate need, however, was to know in as real time as possible what observable and verifiable changes it was influencing in actors who could not be predetermined. Thus, they choose Outcome Harvesting.

Hot Tip: Are you are in a situation of social innovation that aims to influence changes in behavior writ large — from change in individual actions to organizational or institutional changes of policies or practices? Do you need concrete evidence of those achievements as they happen, along with an understanding of whether and how the innovative efforts contributed to those changes? If yes and yes, Outcome Harvesting may be a useful inquiry framework for you.

Rad Resources: In this video I explain in less than three minutes the Outcome Harvesting tool. There you will also find further information.

You can obtain more information about Outcome Harvesting at Better Evaluation.

To explore using the tool with a client, consider this animated PowerPoint slide to support you in operationalizing the iterative six Outcome Harvesting steps.

[1] For more on developmental inquiry frameworks, see Michael Quinn Patton, Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use, Guilford, 2011, Chapter 8.

[2] Ibid, pages 227-228.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Developmental Evaluation Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from evaluators who do developmental evaluation. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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