Realist impact evaluation: an introduction

Realist impact evaluation is an approach to impact evaluation that emphasises the importance of context for programme outcomes. This introduction will help evaluators and commissioners of evaluations to decide whether a realist approach is appropriate for evaluating the impact of a particular policy or programme.

​Realist impact evaluation draws on the realism school of philosophy. Realist approaches to evaluation assume that nothing works everywhere or for everyone: context really does make a difference to programme outcomes. It describes five key ideas which frame realism and their implications for impact evaluation. It explains when a realist impact evaluation may be most appropriate and outlines how to design and conduct an impact evaluation based on a realist approach.

The paper will be useful for evaluators and commissioners of evaluations to decide whether a realist approach is appropriate or feasible for evaluating a particular programme or policy; as well as for anyone interested in understanding a realist approach to impact evaluation. 

This publication was co-produced by BetterEvaluation, ODI, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as part of the Methods Lab project.

Source

Westhorp, G. (2014) 'Realist impact evaluation: an introduction'. Methods Lab. London: Overseas Development Institute.

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A special thanks to this page's contributors
Author
Dr, Community Matters Pty Ltd.
Adelaide, Australia.
Reviewer
Learning by Design.
Australia.
Reviewer
Director of BetterEvaluation/ Professor of Public Sector Evaluation, Australia and New Zealand School of Government.
Melbourne.

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