Data & Developmental Evaluation

Making use of Developmental Evaluation still requires measuring and quantifying data

Often within a social or environmental initiative, a complex system can exist where there are a large number of interacting, interdependent elements with no central control. Sometimes what to do to solve problems is uncertain and key stakeholders are in conflict about how to proceed. Questions might arise around whether they should shift direction, halt the initiative altogether, or press on. In these types of complex systems, one effective method of evaluation is Development Evaluation (DE), which is an evaluation approach that assists social innovators create impact in complex or uncertain environments. DE originators compare their approach to the role of research & development in the private sector product development process because it facilitates real-time, or close to real-time, feedback and learning to program staff, thus facilitating a continuous development loop.

As opposed to traditional evaluation, the purpose of development evaluation is to support the creation of innovation and adaptation in dynamic environments. It allows social innovators to gather info quickly to determine how to proceed with the project. Rather than having an outsider perform the evaluation, DE is an internal team function integrated into the process of gathering and interpreting data, framing issues, and surfacing and testing model developments. In DE, measurement and evaluation are part of an ongoing process and these happen quickly as outcomes emerge. The evaluation aims to nurture ongoing learning and improvement and the innovators’ values and commitments to development use help to keep them accountable.

Although Development Evaluation is exploratory and allows for interventions, emergence, and the opportunity to pivot, that doesn’t mean it can’t be quantified and measured at every check-in point. By gathering data, you can view the hard facts around whether your initiative is working, which will allow you to make those tough decisions around pivoting or halting your project. DE supports communicating your research findings (data) to the internal organization in order to convey the impact of your initiative.

If you’re part of a team using DE to problem-solve and you realize the importance of data gathering, you may be wondering what to do with all of your data. Spreadsheets, shared docs, and emails might be fine to start, but after a while they become cumbersome and difficult to keep track of. Luckily, Riddl was designed for social innovators like yourself. Our easy-to use workspace allows you to organize your impact data by goals, which can align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goals are made up of activities, which have associated indicators and outcomes. As you input the data for your indicators and outcomes, you can use our SROI calculators and impact reports to view in real-time the monetary value of your outcomes and the true impact your initiative is having on people and the planet. All of this data can be fed into your project’s development loop, allowing you to pivot, proceed, or halt your initiative quickly and effectively, saving you time and money. Riddl even allows you to communicate with your team members directly in the workspace, allowing for smooth project collaboration.

Social and environmental initiatives can be complex. By using Developmental Evaluation and leveraging the power of Riddl, you can break through the complexities and easily create lasting social and environmental change.

Written for Riddl by Jill Mersereau

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