Randomized Controls in Evaluation: The Gold Standard Question

Afholdt d. 29. April 2011
Interest in ‘rigorous’ evaluation of Danish development assistance is increasing mainly as a result of the strong political interest in solid documentation of results and what works and what doesn’t.
Randomized control group trials (RCTs) are often promoted as the only scientifically rigorous evaluation method (or the ‘gold standard’ for impact evaluations). There is a risk that with the concentration on, or assumed superiority of, experimental or quasi-experimental methods in the expanding demand for impact evaluations, those types of development interventions not suitable for these approaches will come to be considered less effective or somehow inferior and therefore less ‘value for money’.
What are the alternatives to RCTs?
Michael Quinn Patton is an organizational development and evaluation consultant. Patton is former President of the American Evaluation Association (AEA). He is the only recipient of both the Alva and Gunner Myrdal Award from the Evaluation Research Society for “outstanding contributions to evaluation use and practice” and the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Award for lifetime contributions to evaluation theory from the American Evaluation Association. The Society for Applied Sociology honoured him with the 2001 Lester F. Ward Award for Outstanding Contributions to Applied Sociology. His latest book is Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use (Guilford Press, 2010).
13.00-13.05 Introduction
Ole Winckler Andersen, Head of Danida’s Evaluation Department
13.05-14.00 How Useful are RCT’s and What are the Alternatives?
Michael Quinn Patton, former President, AEA
14.00-14.15 Coffee Break
14.15-15.00 Open Discussion
Chair: Niels Dabelstein, Secretariat for the international evaluation of the Paris Declaration, DIIS.
Materials from the event