Approaches (on this site) refer to an integrated set of options used to do some or all of the tasks involved in evaluation. 

For example, we classify 'Randomized Controlled Trials' (RCTs) as an approach, which uses a combination of random sampling, control group and standardized indicators and measures.

Evaluation approaches have often been developed to address specific evaluation questions or challenges. For example, the Contribution Analysis approach has been developed to address questions about the feasibility of concluding that an intervention has contributed to an outcome in circumstances where a direct causal relationship is difficult to demonstrate.

If you're looking for an approach that's not listed here, it could exist as an evaluation option in the Rainbow Framework. Try using the search tool to find it. If you still can't find it, let us know via the contact form.

List of Approaches

Information is currently available for the following approaches:

Appreciative Inquiry

A participatory approach that focuses on existing strengths rather than deficiencies - evaluation users identify instances of good practice and ways of increasing their frequency.

Beneficiary Assessment

An approach that assesses the value of an intervention as perceived by the (intended) beneficiaries, thereby aiming to give voice to their priorities and concerns.

Case study

A research design that focuses on understanding a unit (person, site or project) in its context, which can use a combination of qualitative and quantitative data.

Collaborative Outcomes Reporting

An approach that builds on contribution analysis, adding expert review and community review of the assembled evidence and conclusions. 

Contribution Analysis

An approach for assessing the evidence for claims that an intervention has contributed to observed outcomes and impacts

Critical System Heuristics

An approach used to surface, elaborate, and critically consider boundary judgments, that is, the ways in which people/groups decide what is relevant to the system of interest (any situation of concern). 

Democratic Evaluation

Democratic Evaluation is an approach where the aim of the evaluation is to serve the whole community.

Developmental Evaluation

An approach appropriate for evaluations of adaptive and emergent interventions, such as social change initiatives or projects operating in complex and uncertain environments 

Empowerment Evaluation

Empowerment Evaluation is an approach which provides communities with the tools and knowledge that allows them to monitor and evaluate their own performance.

Horizontal Evaluation

An approach that combines self-assessment by local participants and external review by peers

Innovation History

A way to jointly develop an agreed narrative of how an innovation was developed, including key contributors and processes, to inform future innovation efforts

Institutional Histories

An approach for creating a narrative that records key points about how institutional arrangements have evolved over time and have created and contributed to more effective ways to achieve project or or program goals

Most Significant Change

Collects and analyses personal accounts of change, includes processes for learning about what changes are most valued by individuals and groups.

Outcome Harvesting
Also Available In: PortuguêsEspañol

Outcome Harvesting collects (‘harvests”) evidence of what has changed (“outcomes”) and, then, working backwards, determines whether and how an intervention has contributed to these changes.

Outcome Harvesting has proven to be especially useful in complex situations when it is not possible to define concretely most of what an intervention aims to achieve, or even, what specific actions will be taken over a multi-year period.

Outcome Mapping

Unpacks an initiative’s theory of change, provides a framework to collect data on immediate, basic changes that lead to longer, more transformative change, and allows for the plausible assessment of the initiative’s contribution to results via ‘boundary partners’.

Participatory Evaluation

A range of approaches that engage stakeholders (especially intended beneficiaries) in conducting the evaluation and/or making decisions about the evaluation

Participatory Rural Appraisal

Enables farmers to analyse their own situation and develop a common perspective on natural resource management and agriculture at village level. (Recently renamed Participatory Learning for Action (PLA)

Positive Deviance

Involves intended evaluation users in identifying ‘outliers’ – those with exceptionally good outcomes - and understanding how they have achieved these.

Randomised Controlled Trials

An approach that produces an estimate of the mean net impact of an intervention by comparing results between a randomly assigned control group and experimental group or groups. 

Realist Evaluation

Realist evaluation is a form of theory-driven evaluation but is set apart by its explicit philosophical underpinnings.  Based in realist philosophy, it considers that interventions work (or not) because actors make particular decisions in response to what is provided by the intervention (or not).

Social Return on Investment

Identifies a broad range of social outcomes, not only the direct outcomes for the intended beneficiaries of an intervention. 

Utilisation-Focused Evaluation

Uses the intended uses of the evaluation by its primary intended users to  guide decisions about how an evaluation should be conducted.