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Publications

Ideas from complexity science and systems thinking are demonstrably helpful in a shift from exploring (systematic) linear net effects of an intervention towards exploring wider (systemic) effects occurring elsewhere. But where these ideas of ‘impact’ are coupled with a narrow use of the contingency approach, some less helpful ‘triangulated’ relationships might be evident. These relationships might be regarded in terms of an ‘iron triangle’, a metaphor used frequently to exemplify pernicious relations of power.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies January 2015
IDS Bulletin

System dynamics modelling (SDM) was used and process researched as a case to investigate its utility as a systems-based evaluation (SBE) approach. A system dynamics (SD) model1 was developed to evaluate the potential requirements and implications on the health systems of the ambitious antiretroviral therapy (ART) scale-up strategy in Lusaka, Zambia.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies January 2015
IDS Bulletin

An impact evaluation's primary task is to determine which impacts were caused by an intervention, distinguishing them from those produced by other causes. However, in complex systems, interventions may contribute towards less apparent forms of impact (such as negative, unintended, indirect and secondary) that are no less significant, but which require a different way of asking questions.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies January 2015
IDS Bulletin

This IDS Bulletin is the second of two that follow an Institute of Development Studies event seeking to define an agenda for research and practice of development impact evaluation. It focuses on exploring the potential of systems ideas and complexity concepts to meet the increasingly complex challenges of an increasingly ambitious development agenda.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies January 2015
IDS Bulletin

The three core systems concepts – interrelationships, perspectives and boundaries – can be used for framing an impact evaluation (see Williams, this IDS Bulletin). But their use also has implications for the type of learning that an impact evaluation is likely to generate. Moreover, they can help to make the value base of evaluations more explicit. This article first outlines a typology for learning and elaborates on the implications for evaluation and the use of systems concepts.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies January 2015
IDS Bulletin

All evaluation approaches have to address questions about their legitimacy, validity, relevance and usefulness. As the complexity of interventions is more widely acknowledged, impact evaluation appears to be especially vulnerable to these challenges. This article explores the potential of the systems field to address these vulnerabilities. The systems field is conceptualised as understanding interrelationships, engaging with multiple perspectives and reflecting on where boundaries are drawn in terms of those interrelationships and perspectives.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies January 2015
IDS Bulletin

The complexity of development processes makes it difficult to observe and interpret the impacts of policies. The authors demonstrate the use and benefits of system dynamics modelling (SDM) in impact evaluation of private sector development programmes. A system dynamics model was hereby specifically used to compare the observed post-intervention situation with a hypothetical non-intervention scenario. They used the model to construct an optimal mix of interventions that supports sustainable private sector development.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies January 2015
IDS Bulletin

In international development there is increasing pressure to demonstrate that aid spending is making a difference. In short, that it is having an ‘impact’.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies December 2014
IDS Evidence Report

This article sets out what would be required to develop a research agenda for impact evaluation. It begins by explaining why it is needed and what process it would involve. It outlines four areas where research is needed – the enabling environment, practice, products and impacts. It reviews the different research methods that can be used to research impact evaluation and argues for particular attention to detailed, theory-informed, mixed-method comparative case studies of the actual processes and impacts of impact evaluation.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies November 2014
IDS Bulletin

What are the right evaluation methods and what evaluation strategy adapted to contemporary development issues should such methods serve? This article argues that a range of methods and tools must be drawn upon to achieve high-quality evaluation standards and that even the best methods cannot compensate for a misguided strategy. For both sets of reasons, it is time for the current craze for experimental evaluation methods in international development to give way.

Institute of Development Studies 
Institute of Development Studies November 2014
IDS Bulletin