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How does the commissioning process hinder the uptake of complexity-appropriate evaluation?

This paper investigates the role of evaluation commissioning in hindering the take-up of complexity-appropriate evaluation methods, using findings from interviews with 19 UK evaluation commissioners and contractors. We find, against a backdrop of a need to ‘do more with less’ and frustration with some traditional approaches, the commissioning process is perceived to hinder adoption of complexity-appropriate methods because of its inherent lack of time and flexibility, and assessment processes which struggle to compare methods fairly. Participants suggested a range of ways forward, including more scoping and dialogue in commissioning processes, more accommodation of uncertainty, fostering of demand from policy users, more robust business cases, and more radical overhauls of the commissioning process. Findings also emphasised the need to understand how the commissioning process interacts with the wider policy making environment and evidence culture, and how this manifests itself in different attitudes to risk in commissioning from different actors.

Jayne Cox and Pete Barbrook-Johnson

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