Pragmatica draws on a range of complexity theory approaches in our work.

Contracting public health and social services: Insights from complexity theory for Aotearoa New Zealand

Public health and social services are often hard to specify, complex to deliver and challenging to measure. This research uses a complexity theory-informed lens to explore the challenges and opportunities of contracting out for public health and social services in Aotearoa New Zealand. This qualitative study considers the implications of complexity concepts with ten public sector managers experienced in contracting out for public health and social services.

Our newly published findings show that public sector managers are experimenting with different ways of contracting out, yet the underlying New Public Management ethos, which is being applied in many administrative arms of government, can hamper initiatives. There is a growing impetus to find alternative approaches to contract out more effectively. An alternative, complexity theory-informed, framing highlights where changes to contracting out organisation and practices may support more effective service provision. This research also provides insights into why achieving change is hard.

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2019 AEA Outstanding Evaluation Award Winners 

Waikato Regional Council invested in a Developmental Evaluation as part of a collaborative stakeholder process to successfully agree on ways of managing water quality and use for diverse populations. This high-stakes evaluation was a trailblazing, three-year journey working collaboratively with multiple stakeholders in a highly contested setting. Significant for the evaluation field this project demonstrates high quality and effective Developmental Evaluation using an evaluation-specific methodology.

The evaluation team working on the project included Kate McKegg, Judy Oakden, Debbie Goodwin and Jacqui Henry.

“For Waikato Regional Council, winning the award affirms that our investment in evaluation for the collaborative stakeholder process was absolutely the right thing to do. …The evaluation award demonstrates to the organization, alongside River Iwi (tribes) and all stakeholders involved in the policy process, the value to be gained from evaluation as a key component of any project. We are thrilled to represent the academic and research expertise that is available in Aotearoa/New Zealand and stand proudly on the world stage and be acknowledged in this way.”

Link to AEA website

Collective Sensemaking – How to plan yours to great effect

Sensemaking is essential in evaluation design. It promotes deeper stakeholder engagement and can lead to better insights and more evaluation use. This paper discussed how to design a collective sensemaking process as part of M&E practice. It considered ways to help navigate values and needs between different stakeholders. We argued sensemaking can make evaluation more useful. The presentation addressed five questions:

  • What is ‘collective sensemaking’ in M&E?
  • What forms can sensemaking take?
  • What are the conditions for successful collective sensemaking?
  • What role can sensemaking play to responsibly navigate the values, needs and understandings of stakeholders?
  • Why is collective sensemaking not more prevalent? How can we strengthen this part of M&E practice?

Notable innovation with qualitative data collection methods and of analytical procedures in quantitative reasoning has occured in M&E. However, innovations in the analytical processes for M&E of mixed methods appear to be lagging behind.

Irene Guijt and Judy Oakden presented this paper at the European Evaluation Society Conference.

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