October 2009 saw a seminar in Oxford on the topic of evaluation and complexity, the first in 2 such events planned by Mokoro, a development consultancy. Presentations from the seminar are available from the website, which include an excellent overview from Pip Bevan as well as specific examples of complexity-oriented evaluations.

As the seminar summary states:

Over the past decade or so a number of shifts have occurred, leading to new thinking about and methodological progress in the area of monitoring and evaluation of development aid. The seminar did not aim to unpack all of these trends or explore in depth what is a very vast area, ranging from questions such as “does aid work” to questions such as “did this project – e.g. delivering school management training courses to all head masters in the primary schools of country X – have an impact on the quality of education”, through questions such as “how has the FTI worked thus far and how could it work better for the achievement of the Education For All (EFA) goals, globally and at the country level” or “what have been the effects of twenty years of cooperation between donor country X and recipient country Y”.

More modestly, the aim is to better understand the potential of a number of M&E approaches and designs which seem to have in common the recognition (though this is not always explicit) of the complexity of development. Without entering in the detail of the argument, in Mokoro we believe that what ‘we’ try to change/develop are complex, open and dynamic systems, reproducing and/or evolving along contingent trajectories that is, trajectories influenced but never fully determined by a large number of factors, some of which are intended in the development intervention(s), others not.

For Aid on the Edge readers interested in this area, there is growing body of knowledge on aid evaluation and complexity from meetings and conferences:

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. […] latest post on Aid on the Edge post compiles presentations and reports from meetings on evaluation and complexity (NORAD, Panos, […]

  2. […] The Mokoro Seminars Two part seminar series run by Mokoro, an Oxford aid think-tank and consultancy operation, with some excellent presentations, notably from Pip Bevan […]


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About Ben Ramalingam

I am a researcher and writer specialising on international development and humanitarian issues. I am currently working on a number of consulting and advisory assignments for international agencies. I am also writing a book on complexity sciences and international aid which will be published by Oxford University Press. I hold Senior Research Associate and Visiting Fellow positions at the Institute of Development Studies, the Overseas Development Institute, and the London School of Economics.


Evaluation, Meetings, Reports and Studies