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Realist evaluation is a form of theory-driven evaluation, but is set apart by its explicit philosophical underpinnings.
Pawson and Tilley (1997) developed the first realist evaluation approach, although other interpretations have been developed since. Pawson and Tilley argued that in order to be useful for decision makers, evaluations need to identify ‘what works in which circumstances and for whom?’, rather than merely ‘does it work?.
The complete realist question is: “What works, for whom, in what respects, to what extent, in what contexts, and how?”. In order to answer that question, realist evaluators aim to identify the underlying generative mechanisms that explain ‘how’ the outcomes were caused and the influence of context.
EventWorkshop21st July, 2015 to 23rd July, 2015AustraliaPaid
Many policies and programs are implemented in large systems, or expect to make changes at multiple levels of a system. Many approaches to program theory either assume that the program itself is simple, or ignore the implications of context for whether and how programs work. The first day of this program will compare various approaches to 'systems', 'complexity' and 'context', including introducing realist perspectives. Participants will explore the implications for program design and for commissioning and conducting evaluations, and in particular, the many uses of theory for dealing with complexity.
EventWebinar31st January, 2018OnlineFree
This presentation continues the CECAN series on realist research and evaluation and their use in relation to complexity. It focuses on the issue of causation. Causation is of critical interest to policy and program authors, who seek to cause (or steer) change; to evaluators who seek to attribute outcomes to interventions, and to researchers who seek to understand particular aspects of the operations of complex systems.
Week 49: The 1st international conference on realist approaches to evaluation: my ‘realist’ take-awaysBlog5th December, 2014
Tiina Pasanen is a Research Officer for the Research and Policy in Development (RAPID) Programme at the Overseas Development Programme (ODI). In this blog, Tiina shares her top three realist ‘take-aways’ from the 1st International Conference on Realist Approaches to Evaluation and reflects on when or how realist evaluation may be most useful.
EventCourse5th August, 2019 to 8th August, 2019United KingdomPaid
The CARES Summer School is designed to train researchers, evaluators, commissioners, students and others in the principles and practice of realist inquiry. The application of realist methodology to research and evaluation requires capacity development. For many, collective effort and co-learning is fundamental to developing an inspired capacity for undertaking this approach.
EventCourse14th November, 2016 to 18th November, 2016United KingdomPaid
This module will provide participants with an understanding of realist review (or synthesis) and realist evaluation. Participants should then be able to apply their new knowledge and skills to their own realist research project, regardless of which field of research they come from. In health care and many other fields of research, interventions are often described as being complex and have outcomes that are dependent on context. When these complex interventions fail to achieve their desired outcomes, the explanation frequently provided is because they are both complex and context dependent. Realist research approaches (realist evaluation or realist review) can help make sense of these types of interventions or programmes. The approaches are theory driven – developing structurally coherent explanations of interventions and test these against empirical data. In realist evaluation the researcher or evaluator’s task is to gather the data – i.e. it is a form of primary research. Whereas in realist review the primary data comes from documents (e.g. studies, policy documents and so on) and so it is a form of secondary research.
EventCourse14th August, 2017 to 17th August, 2017United KingdomPaid
The annual CARES Summer School is a 4-day intensive for training in realist methodology (evaluation and synthesis). The programme is designed to assist participants advance their projects using the methodology and gain increased clarity in applying realist principles to complex areas of assessment. The application of realist methodology to research projects is a craft. For many of us, collective effort and co-learning is fundamental to developing an inspired capacity for undertaking this approach.
The focus of this one-day workshop was to build practical skills to conduct a realist evaluation for international development projects and programmes. The rapidly changing context of development assistance in recent years combined with growing pressure on policymakers to demonstrate value for money has led to criticism that many impact evaluation approaches lack rigour or fail to respond to this complex and shifting environment. Over the last decade this has led to a surge of interest in exploring alternative, yet still robust, approaches to impact evaluation.
EventConference24th October, 2017 to 26th October, 2017AustraliaPaid
The 2017 Realist Conference invites realist researchers, evaluators, theorists and methodologists of all descriptions, along with those who are commissioning realist work and those who are using it to inform practice and policy together to answer: In what circumstances and for whom have realist methods been useful, in what respects, and why? In what contexts have they not proved useful, and why? How do the specific methods we use in our research or evaluation contribute (or not) to their use? What new developments or methods would further support their use?
EventConference14th April, 2018United KingdomPaid
The Bangor University invites researchers involved in research with a realist approach to join them for a one day conference.