Using Developmental Evaluation to Support Adaptive Strategies: An Application from a Social Change Initiative

Published: September 2023

Type: Publication

Julia Coffman, Headshot
Tanya Beer
Headshot of Daniel Stid. A light skinned man wearing glasses, smiling, wearing a dark blazer.
A headshot of Kathy Armstrong. A light-skinned woman with short, light hair smiling wearing a black blouse.

This publication is a chapter from The Oxford Handbook of Program Design and Implementation Evaluation, published September 2023.

Developmental evaluation is well suited for emergent strategies that are tackling problems rooted in complex systems. This chapter describes the use of developmental evaluation during the initial years of a complex philanthropic initiative focused on strengthening US democracy and its institutions— especially Congress—in a time of political polarization.

Because the initiative reflected a different way of thinking about foundation strategy that was emergent and systems-focused, an innovative evaluation and learning approach was used to support ongoing decision-making and adaptation. The chapter, authored by and written from the perspective of both strategists and evaluators, describes the methods used, how the evaluation informed strategy, and reflections and lessons on the developmental evaluation experience and approach.

Resources on Developmental Evaluation