Blue Flower

Realist Evaluation

Realist evaluation is an approach all projects or programmes should be aware of.

The standard approach of many funders and policymakers is on asking the non-realistic question "What works?", meaning "What works with all people in all circumstances?"). 

The only accurate answer to that question is "Well it depends...", as no project or programme works with all people in all places at all times. 

Realistic evaluation asks a different question: who did the project or programme work well with, who not, and what were the possible reasons in both cases?

The following one-page guide from Community Matters is the best starting point we've come across for it, and there's also the original paper from 1997 that launched the whole concept. (Don't be put off by the fact that it's not a shiny brand new theory these days – it's still barely known despite being the most fundamental starting point for any evaluation. But if you want something more up-to-date, the ODI guide to it is the most official one.)