Realist Evaluation and an Architectural Understanding of Social Policy: Illuminating Blind Spots

sponsored by: engage@liverpool

With Justin Jagosh, Ph.D
Director, Centre for Advancement in Realist Evaluation and Synthesis (CARES)

Thursday, February 7th, 2019
1:00pm – 4:00pm
Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool
1 Brownlow St, Liverpool (UK)

cost: free

To register please go to:

Realist Evaluation is a methodology that addresses the questions: ‘what works, for whom, under what circumstances, and how’. Building on the work of Pawson and Tilley (1997), this seminar will discuss the metaphor of “programme architecture” that can support a realistic evaluation of complex outcomes. Clarifying the architecture of a programme or policy is a building block toward understanding how initiatives are meant to work based on the resources implemented in contexts and how people respond to those resources. 

To do justice to complexity theorizing, it is necessary to have an open-minded, creative, emergent, theoretically sensitive appreciation of programmes mechanisms and their activation in contexts. Even with this kind of appreciation, our conceptualizations highlight certain features of policy design while inevitably creating blind spots in other areas. A realistic endeavour is to cumulate knowledge on complex outcomes, but also to illuminate the blind spots that preclude innovation in policy and programme implementation.  

Pawson (2013) has noted that there are discernible classes of interventions. For example: carrots (incentives), sermons (educational and cautionary messaging), and sticks (punitive, legislative). Building on this line of thinking, this seminar will discuss how an architectural understanding of social policy can be used to produce realistic data and uncover areas that remain persistently under-theorized.