In recent years, international development programmes have increasingly sought to address complex problems, and this has led to growing demand for “complexity-aware” approaches to monitoring and evaluation. One key area of this frontier is the family of approaches known as theory-based evaluation.
In this webinar hosted by the Centre for Development Impact (CDI), I argue that there is a need for combining theory-based methods to improve evaluation practice and shed light on causal mechanisms.
I draw on on recent lessons on comparative learning from six process tracing evaluations conducted between 2017 and 2020. I explain how realist evaluation can strengthen process tracing’s approach to causal explanation by offering a sharper focus on context and demonstrating why it is so important to reflect on actors’ motivation (or reasoning). And I also show how process tracing can support realist evaluation to appraise the quality of mechanistic evidence in a new light, based on Bayesian logic and the legal concept of “probative value”.