Simple Principies for the Evaluation of Complex Programmes


  • Ray Pawson University of Leeds


programme evaluation, programme theory


 One of the most dramatic changes in recent years has been the development of complex, multi-purpose programmes generated by a large multiplicity of entities and a wide range of objectives. The reason for this change is clear. The genesis of social problems is intertwined. Decision-makers question the impacts of single measures, focused interventions that are only treating symptoms at best, with short-term gains, and can not reach the deepest genesis of the issues. This complexity has inspired "super-interventions" of local initiative (area-based initiatives -ABis). Our objective is to discuss, from the researcher's point of view, the best way to evaluate these programmes. It proposes some basic principles for this evaluation that help to establish priorities within a great diversity of problematic and methodological options. These principles derive from a theoretically framed evaluation whose purpose is to shed light on the assumptions underlying interventions which are called "programme theory". It is on the basis of this theory that the programme can be evaluated.