Developmental evaluators, where are you?


That is quite the honor!


@sealelkins, @clysy, and @MQP: As an FYI, journal access is totally free with your AEA membership (if you have one). Login at and follow the link to AJE from here:

And if you need anything off of there in a pinch, just email me at [email protected]


Thank you for the clarification of “niche”, Michael, and for making the article freely available! I would love to know–do you have any questions or points of curiosity for us here, about how we are making sense of DE and putting it into practice?


Fellow developmental evaluators, I’ve got another question for us to ponder. I was having a chat with a local DE colleague and one of the challenges that came up was getting involved in a project before there’s a clear evaluand yet (which is the ideal since DE is meant to be integrated from the outset) and having the evaluation processes and structures we try to put in place seem to hamper the development process or take it over. My colleague shared a few examples of this happening and I reflected on my own experiences and thought about what is helpful to do when you’re there as an evaluator but there’s nothing to evaluate yet.

I’ve had success with doing a lot of baseline data gathering and documenting, not to answer anything too specific beyond, “What’s happening? What are we noticing?”. I’ve used mostly journalling (my own and getting some key stakeholders to journal), participant observation wherever possible/appropriate, and debriefs after significant events and discussions (which is extra helpful for building up reflective thinking capacity), as well as using this time to suss out possible sources of data for future stages. I’ve also found it helpful to work with people who can bring other kinds of structure to these early stages of development, like facilitators and designers, who can support the very generative and divergent thinking that evaluative reflection doesn’t always lend itself to.

Is this a challenge you’ve had? What do you do when there’s nothing to evaluate yet?


Do you have a sense of what IS there yet? What kind of problem they are trying to solve with their initiative? How do they know about and understand that problem? I might start by seeing what my own understanding of what those are, and checking to see if they’re accurate or resonate with them in some way.


This is short notice but there’s a webinar on developmental evaluation on Friday, May 31. Here are the details for anyone who’s able to attend:

Developmental Evaluation: Rewards, Perils, and Anxieties

May 31, 2019, 12:00 -1:30 pm EST


Are you excited about implementing a developmental evaluation? Are you struggling with having to adjust the evaluation budget every time you adjust the intervention? How do you put your arms around the unknowns? You are not alone. The practice of developmental evaluation is changing the way foundations and evaluators practice, contract, and work with each other and with other stakeholders who are part of the evaluand. Join us - two evaluators and a foundation program officer - in a dialogue about what development evaluation is supposed to be and the realities of practicing this approach. There will be time to also hear from webinar participants about their experiences with developmental evaluation.

Tanya Beer, Associate Director, Center for Evaluation Innovation
Kien Lee, Principal Associate & Vice President, Community Science


Thank you!

There’s another another webinar coming up in a couple of weeks, through the Canadian Evaluation Society, BC Chapter.

Our Developmental Evaluation Journey: Navigating Supports for Newcomer Refugees

WHEN: Friday June 14, 2019 from 12 pm to 1 pm Pacific Time

WHERE: Online using Zoom platform. You can check your computer’s requirements here

(Join links will be provided prior to the webinar)

COST: Free


Presented by Kim Walker and Elaina Mack

Webinar description:

As evaluation practitioners, how often do we reflect upon our own experiences? How can these reflections go hand-in-hand with an evaluation in progress? How can we integrate real-time client learning into coaching interventions while still maintaining the integrity of an evaluation exercise? What are the benefits and considerations for capturing and sharing these reflections? Presenters will engage participants to navigate these questions, based on a recent developmental evaluation (DE) of an initiative to support newcomer refugees. Discussions will focus on key watershed moments from this evaluation, including: Organizational readiness Project design, flexibility & adaptability Core evaluation questions Relationship building Power dynamics Influence of cultural differences This presentation will explore: why evaluators’ reflections are important; evaluation components worth monitoring; and when sharing evaluator experiences would be of value to partners and participants. Up to three significant lessons or tools will be identified for future application.


Did anyone make it to the “Developmental Evaluation: Rewards, Perils, and Anxieties” webinar? Want to share your highlights/takeaways?


I did. The biggest takeaways for me was Tanya Beer’s section of the presentation. In it, she shared the evaluator conditions that lead to effective Developmental. She broke them down as:

Structure (budget flexibility, staffing flexibility, the evaluator’s ability to be part of the strategy process)
Disposition (comfort with uncertainty/ambiguity to strategy/ToC, confidence to push back on assumptions)
Skills (systems thinking, negotiating skills, rapid deployment of method and speedy analysis, high capacity for listening for assumptions and identifying questions in real time, facilitation skills)

Tanya also mentioned how DE can sometimes place a bigger emphasis on learning while accountability gets put on the back burner. You still have to have a system of accountability in place to your stakeholders as you’re learning.


Thank you, Nicole, that’s so helpful! There was also someone on Twitter who said she attended and might write up a blog post on it. I’ll share it here if that happens.

I should be able to participate in the CESBC webinar on the 14th so I’ll share my takeaways from that as well.


I went to the registration page and registered today (6/5) and was taken directly to the archive copy of the webinar and was able to see it in its entirety. Don’t know how long it will be up but it is still available.