On November 4th and 5th I attended the conference ‘State of the Art Realist Methodologies’ in Leeds, hosted by the University of Leeds. Below are some of the highlights for me:
There is a growing interest in exploring alternative, yet still robust, approaches to evaluating the impact of interventions. While the rapid rise of experimental and quasi-experimental methodologies has provided much focus to answering the “does it work?” question, there is an increasing pressure to better understand “what works, in which circumstances, and for whom?”. In this regard, realist evaluation offers much potential, as it seeks to understand the underlying causal mechanisms that explain the influence of context and ‘how’ outcomes were caused. It is an approach that is becoming established in the health and social science research fields, and while a form of theory-driven evaluation, it is set apart because of its explicit philosophical underpinnings. The application of realist evaluation within international development is however limited, with few examples to draw upon.
The focus of CDI’s work is on:
- Developing how Realist Evaluation approaches can be applied in international development
- Learning about Realist Evaluation in practice, and its suitability in different contexts
- Sharing understanding about the strengths and limitations of Realist Evaluation