Steve Fleischman

Managing Complexity: How Evaluators Can Help Achieve Better Outcomes in Policy and Practice


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Evaluators are increasingly asked to help policymakers and practitioners manage complexity in the social arena. There is a growing realization that desired outcomes in areas such as education, criminal justice, health, and social welfare arise from the interactions of a host of factors operating in a variety of “systems.” Evaluators can play a significant role in helping policymakers and practitioners resolve complex problems. The author offers three observations on how to proceed as evaluators in the face of complexity. The main points are that evaluators must (1) accept and acknowledge complexity and its consequences, (2) consider and apply a systems perspective when conducting work, and (3) search for new ways to engage with policymakers and practitioners in addressing complexity.

Research Use, Evaluation Methods, Complexity, Systems