Centre for Advancement in Realist Evaluation and Synthesis (CARES)

Welcome to the website for the Centre for Advancement in Realist Evaluation and Synthesis (CARES), operated by Dr. Justin Jagosh. Realist methodology (in the tradition of Pawson and Tilley 1997; Pawson 2006, 2013) is a theory-driven approach to understanding 'what works, for whom, under what circumstances and how' for programmes, services, interventions and policies. The methodology is burgeoning for assessment across many sectors including health and social service, crime prevention, social policy, international development and environmental studies.

For an introduction to Realist Evaluation and Synthesis watch this video delivered for engage@liverpool, January 2017. Scroll down for more advanced tutorials on Realist Methodology.

Pawson R, & Tilley N. (1997). Realistic Evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Pawson R, (2006). Evidence-Based Policy: A Realist perspective, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Pawson R, (2013). The Science of Evaluation: A Realist Manifesto, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Five Burning Questions Answered About Realist Evaluation
Delivered for: Solent University Realist Research Group (SURRG)
October 7th, 2019

Justin Jagosh in collaboration with Kevin Harris and Henry Dorling from Solent University's Realist Research Group (SURRG) discuss five common questions about realist evaluation:

1. How is realist evaluation related to critical realist philosophy?
2. If you base your programme theory on your assumptions then won't that be biased?
3. If realist evaluation is developing and testing programme theory when do you stop testing? 
4. How do we scale up realist findings when we are focused on specific contexts?
5. What does the future hold for the Context-Mechanism-Outcome configuration?

Realist Evaluation and an Architectural Understanding of Health and Social Programmes
Delivered for: engage@liverpool, University of Liverpool (UK)
February 7th, 2019

An important activity in the process of conducting a realist evaluation is envisioning the architecture of programmes under scrutiny. It is through an understanding a programme’s architecture that clarity emerges about aspects of context that make a difference and context-mechanism interactions. However for programmes involving social contingency, the architectural materials and design are not always immediately obvious. This presentation uses the metaphor of ‘architectural understanding’ to explain these points and suggest how evaluators can improve their approach to theorizing using realist principles.

Evidencing Generative Causal Pathways
Delivered for: Realist Approaches Workshop - Founding Principles and Contemporary Developments,
Northumbria University, (UK)
November 14th, 2018

Many programmes have lofty outcome goals for addressing entrenched and complex problems. The way in which generative causal pathways (and rival pathways) are envisioned will shape ideas about evaluation design. Programmes are often implemented with the hope for resolution of acute problems. In these instances, an absence of vision of the potential longer-term ripple effects can result in a blindness to potential harms and complications attributable to such programmes.

The Importance of Understanding Context
Delivered for: School of Public Health, University of Queensland, Australia
February 13th, 2018.

Realist inquiry uses programme and middle-range theory and context-mechanism-outcome configuration to address the questions, 'what works, for whom, under what circumstances and how?' This approach to research and evaluation can be adapted in many ways – including in the design of large-scale study, literature-based knowledge synthesis, policy appraisal, implementation scale-up, and in day-to-day decision-making. In this introductory webinar, ideas from Realist Evaluation will be presented to clarify why it is important to understand context.

The Context + Mechanism Association:
A Key Heuristic in Realist Evaluation for Innovating Programmes
Delivered for the Centre for Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN)
June 26th, 2017

Undertaking inquiry using the realist approach involves analysing complexity in terms of context-mechanism-outcome configurations. Confusion often arises in determining when data should fit under 'context' or else 'mechanism' in the process of configuring.This webinar will offer a simple set of definitions for context, mechanism and outcome to clarify this issue and will introduce examples of CMO configuring to demonstrate the context-mechanism interaction. The goal is to stimulate ideas around how to define concepts, theorize programmes and configure data in realist analysis, with the ultimate ambition of increasing capacity for using realist evaluation to innovate and transform programmes.    

Dosage, Timelines, and other Important Considerations for Realist Evaluation:    
Delivered for the Centre for Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN)
September 6th, 2017

The functioning of a programme can be determined from the realist theories that sketch out its basic architecture. This becomes increasingly evident in the process of theory testing using the context-mechanism-outcome configuration in which we try to understand how resources, when placed in environments trigger responses to produce outcomes.In understanding how programmes work, we may arrive at questions about dosage (e.g., how many times should we expect the resource to be delivered before the desired response will be triggered?) and timelines of impact (e.g., what are reasonable estimations of time delay between the introduction of resources and the triggering of response?). Using examples, this webinar will demonstrate why dosage and timelines of impact are important considerations in the process of realist theory developing and testing.