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Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use Paperback – Jun 15 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 375 pages
  • Publisher: The Guilford Press; 1 edition (June 15 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606238728
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606238721
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 17.8 x 24.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #28,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Proust wrote that 'the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.' In this book, Patton brings new eyes to evaluation landscapes. He illustrates the distinct contribution that developmental evaluation can make in addressing the dynamic complexity that often challenges evaluation efforts. Evaluators will see themselves among the stories Patton shares. The concepts and ideas are accessible and the case examples provide a diverse array of teachable vignettes, making the book ideal for classroom use. This is a most enjoyable read that offers lots of new learning, even for an evaluation veteran!"--Ann M. Doucette, PhD, Director, The Evaluators’ Institute, The George Washington University

"There is a real hunger for this book among social innovators, funders, policymakers, and educators. The book is sure to become dog-eared as it is read, used, and reread to help evaluators conduct their work in a manner consistent with the complexity of the challenges they are addressing."--Brenda Zimmerman, PhD, Director, Health Industry Management Program, Schulich School of Business, York University, Canada

"In true Michael Quinn Patton style, this book successfully extends both the theory and practice of evaluation in significant and timely ways. Solutions to the world’s most pressing social problems are neither predictable nor known; developmental evaluation is just what the field needs to evaluate the complex realities of today’s organizations and communities. This book is a 'must read' for anyone committed to understanding how, where, when, and for whom social innovations are achieving their goals."--Hallie Preskill, PhD, Executive Director, Strategic Learning and Evaluation Center, FSG Social Impact Advisors, Seattle, Washington
"Patton pulls back the curtain to reveal that there is no great Oz of evaluation. This book reminds us that when we are working in complex systems we are better off acknowledging how little we know from the outset--and then acting on continual feedback--rather than pretending we already have all the knowledge needed to succeed. Patton challenges evaluators to relentlessly adapt, react, change, and innovate to work toward the best outcomes."--John B. Bare, PhD, Vice President, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia

"Draws together sophisticated concepts and models from an extraordinary array of disciplines, such as ecology, business, sociology, and international development. It includes the work of thought leaders and practitioners from around the globe and is explicit about the need for more collaboration and input to continuously inform and develop this evaluation framework. Seasoned readers of Patton's earlier works will instantly recognize the classic Patton style, complete with rich narrative stories, wry wit, and clever cartoons--trappings purposefully used to not only engage the reader, but also bring about clearer understanding and meaning....This book is a must-read for any evaluator, as it will change the way you see the world around you and how you view and conduct your practice."--Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation
(Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation 2013-05-28)

"Patton is the originator of developmental evaluation, and his decades of experience in the broader context of utilization-focused evaluation...radiate throughout the text, providing a rich source for evaluators at all levels of expertise--the reader is in good hands....A rich text, brimming with Patton's years of experience and the wisdom of his esteemed colleagues....Patton writes with emotion and effectively meshes storytelling with fundamentals to deepen the reader's understanding of developmental evaluation. For newcomers to the field, experienced evaluators, and social innovators alike, this book can serve to instill excitement about program evaluation and a broadened sense of its usefulness for creating social change."--Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
(Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology 2013-05-01)

About the Author


Michael Quinn Patton is an independent organizational development and program evaluation consultant. A former President of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), he teaches regularly in AEA’s professional development workshops, The Evaluators’ Institute, and The World Bank’s International Program in Development Evaluation Training. Dr. Patton is a recipient of the Myrdal Award for Outstanding Contributions to Useful and Practical Evaluation Practice from the Evaluation Research Society and the Lazarsfeld Award for Lifelong Contributions to Evaluation Theory from the AEA.


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, this is the first review I've ever written and I'm writing it because I love this book. Second, this book made me laugh. Out loud. How often does a book on evaluation make you laugh? Third, Michael Quinn Patton writes about things that occur ALL THE TIME in the non-profit sector that even seasoned non-profit people won't talk about... you know those unspeakable subjects! His radical honesty was profoundly affirming & worth the time & money spent on this book. However, those are just details that delighted me. This is the most practical and useful resource about how to work with the forces of social innovation (including grassroots movements & the non-profit sector)that I have ever seen. There are lots of other brilliant books, and I have read many of them, but Dr. Patton has done something unique here. He has presented a theoretically grounded & rigorous approach which is designed to support social innovation (the change we wish to be & see in the world); a survey of new-paradigm thinking as it applies to organizations and change; and has illustrated the application of developmental evaluation though realistic, real, multifaceted & dynamic examples and case studies which are important & 'impactful' lessons unto themselves. It is unfortunate that this book appears to be so specialized... based on the title & design one would have to be really geeky about evaluation to pick this book up, but I think everyone who is interested in social change (from any angle) should read it. I am thrilled because at my organization [...Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book. Helped me map out the developmental evaluation process and develop a framework that I've been able to use throughout my project. A must-have for any developmental evaluator.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa1e8a054) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e8fa98) out of 5 stars Another Box July 2 2011
By Jasper - Published on
Format: Paperback
A book for academics, great source of references and great if you need to write an article on evaluation. The book is also a sad reflection on the profession of evaluation.

Having stuffed evaluation into two neatly labeled boxes, Formative and Summative evaluation, Patton outlines the need for thinking outside the box. He introduces many fine concepts including emergence and systems thinking but then proceeds to revert to creating a new box with rigid boundaries and labels this new box Developmental Evaluation.

Now we have three neat boxes to choose from and spend time musing over which is the appropriate box for a particular evaluation.

Very disappointing! Why do we need a Phd thesis to tell us that life is messy or the difference between simple, complicated and complex? Why is the author so surprised by everyday truths?

The concepts in the book while valid, remain disconnected and separated out and the author clearly needs neat simple solutions that are defined, confined and documented by academics.

What is really missing in the book is awareness, a true openness to discovery, a large splash of humility and a commitment to accountability. So much could be learned from Paulo Freire and his Praxis concept or from Jane Vella's great book "How do They know They know" yet neither get a mention.

The greatest asset with this book is that it gives the evaluator permission and the authority from academia to move from the twin cells of Formative and Summative Evaluation for brief excursions into the defined and confined exercise yard now claimed and named as Developmental Evaluation. So sad that we need this permission to move towards reality !
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e8faec) out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Useful Nov. 25 2012
By Ken Rider - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've always liked the observation by George Box that "All models are wrong, some are useful." It fits here in helping describe Patton's thoughtful and passionate treatment of developmental evaluation, which is essentially a learn-as-you-go approach to program evaluation. It's definitely useful, which is high praise.

PROS: What I appreciate most about Patton's developmental approach is that it applies nicely to navigating messy, real-world situations where folks are building new programs in changing environments and really don't know what's likely to work and what isn't. The developmental approach embraces the idea that we do the best we can in these situations, recognizing that we can collect and use feedback along the way to figure out what works, what doesn't and to change accordingly. The approach also acknowledges that it's often unrealistic to "freeze" a program to evaluate it. Overall, Patton's wealth of experience comes through in a text that is filled with rich analysis and sprinkled liberally with useful examples and meaningful insights of when and where the approach can be used. In addition, there are good summaries after each chapter and readers in a hurry may want to skim these first to find the parts most relevant to them.

CONS: Though well written, this is not a breezy read. The text is focused on practical matters but the writing style will strike some as "academic." Patton also takes a number of tangents to highlight issues he believes are relevant. While I generally appreciated these side trips and reasons for them, it's worth noting that those looking for a how-to book shouldn't expect a step-by-step flow to the discussion. Finally, I agree with a previous reviewer who noted that Patton takes a great deal of time providing rationales for some points in the book which seemed almost obvious. My sense here is that he does this b/c he's writing for several audiences at once. One of these likely consists of traditional evaluators who may see developmental evaluation as some kind of abomination. Where the text appears to go overboard in defending the devel approach, it's probably just a bit of armor plating to ensure that critics see and understand the rigor underpinning the approach and under what circumstances it's sensible to use.

To wrap up, there are several good and free primers on developmental evaluation out there (for example, Preskill & Beer), but if you're looking to go in depth on the topic, Patton's book is well worth the time.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e8fdc8) out of 5 stars Practical approach to using complexity concepts in evaluation Jan. 31 2011
By Dancing diva - Published on
Format: Paperback
Michael Patton brings together the rich thinking about complexity and systems approaches and shows how, and why, we can apply this to evaluation. While not all types of interventions need developmental evaluation, increasingly our interventions are non-standardized, adaptive and emergent, and evaluation approaches based on comparative agricultural plots cannot provide the evidence we need to develop policy and practice. Developmental evaluation shows ways to learn from and inform what we do.
HASH(0xa1e94300) out of 5 stars Utilization Maximized Feb. 1 2016
By qcridder - Published on
Format: Paperback
Patton stops at nothing in his quest to reveal just how critical stakeholder participation is. He is clear, as evaluators we can be objective, but know little about the client’s business. Further, he encourages us by extolling the virtues of the need to continually improve our evaluation capability and to be adaptive within the evaluation process. He has bring to the forefront the contribution that developmental evaluation can bring to an evaluators practice. His book brings together theory and practice of evaluation in a very useful manner.
HASH(0xa1e94318) out of 5 stars I Highly Recommend it Feb. 6 2013
By Kyle - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Patton's approach to evaluation is relentlessly pragmatic. It breaks free from formulaic constraints and offers models calculated to account for complexity. He weaves concrete experience throughout the text to illustrate and fortify his points. A wonderful read.