Approaches and Methods

We have the capacities for applying a broad range of evaluation approaches and methods. We have applied realist, developmental and impact evaluation approaches in our work. Influenced by a realist evaluation perspective we focus strongly on context. Our focus on contexts is also balanced with a focus on impacts by applying experimental and quasi-experimental approaches. We have the expertise in estimating impacts and we strongly believe that a focus on impacts needs to be informed by an understanding of contexts and processes that are responsible for such impacts.

Our tagline is informed by a realist evaluation perspective: What works, for whom, under what circumstances?

Befitting a centre focused on complexity, our methodological approaches are eclectic. We are as comfortable with using standard approaches to qualitative and quantitative methods as we are with more complex methods of causal modeling. We are especially interested in linking program processes, contexts and impacts. Typically this would require a mixed methods approach that might require combining qualitative analysis with complex longitudinal and organizational quantitative methods.

Examples of methods that we have applied in our work include network analysis, spatial analysis, time series methods, multi-level modeling and qualitative longitudinal research. In all of our evaluations, we seek to mix the learnings that come from numeric approaches with the insights on mechanisms that come from qualitative approaches.

We are also interested in exploring how evaluations of specific programs can also generate insights on the limited leverage of under-resourced programs to generate solutions, pointing to the need for system-level solutions. We are increasingly applying qualitative longitudinal methods to explore changes over time of individuals with multiple disadvantages living in marginalized communities in Toronto as part of the poverty reduction strategy work: a specific interest is in the evaluation to generate insights on strategic solutions needed for individuals who are facing potential synergies of epidemics.

In addition to evaluation we also have the capacities to do evidence synthesis. We have implemented methods of realist synthesis to better understand the contexts and mechanisms associated with effective interventions.