Equity-focused developmental evaluation using critical systems thinking

Reynolds, M. (2014). Equity-focused developmental evaluation using critical systems thinking. Evaluation – The International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 20(1) pp. 75–95.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1356389013516054


Developmental evaluation can often question the ethical basis of an intervention in terms of whether it’s ‘doing the right thing’ rather than merely ‘doing things right’. Drawing on ideas from critical systems thinking and critical systems heuristics, an evaluation framework with a pro-equity focus is suggested. The framework addresses issues of complexity. It invites theories of change associated with philosophical ethics, and provides a means of surfacing and potentially transforming debilitating relations of power in a complex evaluand. A case study of the long-standing Narmada project in India is used to sketch the workings of the framework. The paper describes how the underpinning methodological ideas of critical systems thinking incorporating triple-loop learning can enhance the practice of developmental evaluation.

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