The process of implementing developmental evaluation for The Rockefeller Foundation’s youthdigital employment initiative yielded some valuable lessons which could be of benefit to the evaluation community, particularly evaluation practitioners and managers. This paper presents those lessons, including the challenges the evaluation team faced, the solutions it brokered, and the insights to be applied in the future. It is the Foundation’s hope that this report will provide answers to questions about when and how to use developmental evaluation, and encourage evaluators to adopt it when appropriate.
Developmental evaluation (DE) has emerged as an approach that is well suited to evaluating innovative early-stage or market-based initiatives that address complex social issues. However, because DE theory and practice are still evolving, there are relatively few examples of its implementation on the ground. This paper reviews the practical experience of a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) team in conducting a developmental evaluation of a Rockefeller Foundation initiative in the field of digital employment for young people, and offers observations and advice on applying developmental evaluation in practice.
Through its work with The Rockefeller Foundation’s team and its grantees, the M&E team drew lessons relating to context, intentional learning, tools and processes, trust and communication, and adaption associated with developmental evaluation. It was found that success depends on commissioning a highly qualified DE team with interpersonal and communication skills and, whenever possible, some sectoral knowledge. The paper also offers responses to three major criticisms frequently leveled against developmental evaluation, namely that it displaces other types of evaluations, is too focused on “soft” methods and indicators, and downplays accountability.