Editorial Comment: Today’s blog was written by ECDG’s board chair, Craig Russon. Thanks, Craig!
I read with interest the article entitled “A research synthesis of the evaluation capacity building literature” (Labin, S., Duffy, J., Meyers, D., Wandersman, A. & Lesesne, C., 2012) in the most recent American Journal of Evaluation. What interested me most was how the authors and ECDG have taken such different approaches to the subject.
The authors of the AJE article did a comprehensive review of the existing theoretical and empirical literature. They extracted all the key elements from these sources and incorporated them into what they call the “integrative evaluation capacity-building model”–kind of a kitchen sink approach to model building.
I think that this complicated model poses some problems for ECD theory and practice. First, the large number of variables contributes to high combinatorial complexity that may distract us from seeing patterns. Second, the basic logic model-like structure may focus our attention on linear cause-effect chains.
This contrasts with the system’s approach espoused by ECDG. The approach enables us to appreciate the complexity of ECD situations. It does this by providing a framework to view ECD situations in different ways, to work out some of the logical consequences of each perspective and to compare them with the messiness of reality.
If you haven’t downloaded ECDG’s New Guide to Evaluation Capacity Development, I encourage you to do so. It is available free of charge on the website under the Knowledge tab.