Rapid Evaluation Approaches for Complex Initiatives. A. The Context


Factor 1: Situational dynamics. How complex are the dynamics of the context or environment in which the intervention is operating?

Within the situation of interest, how complex are the set of relationships, connections, or exchanges among the players? In relatively simple situations, relationships are fixed, tightly coupled (dependent), and often hierarchical. Complicated system relationships can involve the coordination of separate entities, such as the use of multiple engineering teams in designing and building a large-scale construction project (Gawande 2010). In contrast, complex system dynamics are characterized by less centralized control.

How different are the stakeholders’ perspectives in the situation? In simple contexts, there is a high degree of certainty and agreement over system goals and how to achieve them; there is consensus on both desired ends and means (Stacey 1993). In complicated situations, there may be agreement on the overall purpose or goal of a program or intervention, but less certainty and consensus on how to achieve it. For example, neighbors may come together to advocate for improved traffic safety but prefer a range of solutions, from sidewalks to stop signs. In complex situations, such as education reform, there may be a great diversity of perspectives regarding both reform goals and strategies among the families, teachers, school administrators, education board members, state legislators, federal officials, and other stakeholders involved in the issue.

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