Development evaluation has traditionally favoured linear concepts – epitomised by the widespread use of the logical framework. But, with an increasingly ambitious development agenda, many evaluators have turned to systems ideas and complexity concepts in order to address the challenge of understanding and assessing impact. Such approaches, rather than attempt to isolate an intervention, instead consider it as part of a system; a broader system where not all is known in advance, where there is a degree of uncertainty and risk, where change may be fast or slow, as well as influenced by a range of interconnected factors. Systems thinking and complexity science are broad fields however, and we have yet to reach consensus around how such approaches should be applied to the evaluation and achievement of development impact.

The focus of CDI’s work is on:

  • Furthering the debate around the application of systems-thinking and complexity to evaluation
  • Learning about how systems-based approaches are applied in international development
  • Sharing understanding about the strengths and limitations of systems-based approaches

Latest publications

This CDI Practice Paper by Giulia Mascagni provides a critical assessment of the literature on tax experiments to date.

It examines the main conceptual, methodological and data-related challenges, and provides practical reflections on how to move forward in low- and middle-income countries where this type of research is still underdeveloped.

It offers a guide for practitioners on the main challenges in quantitative research on tax compliance and on the methods used tackle them, which may be of interest for evaluation research more generally.

April 2015