Realist Evaluation Workshop

Watch/Listen Again Tuesday 18 November 2014 09:00 to 17:00
IDS Convening Space

The focus of this one-day workshop was to build practical skills to conduct a realist evaluation for international development projects and programmes.

The rapidly changing context of development assistance in recent years combined with growing pressure on policymakers to demonstrate value for money has led to criticism that many impact evaluation approaches lack rigour or fail to respond to this complex and shifting environment. Over the last decade this has led to a surge of interest in exploring alternative, yet still robust, approaches to impact evaluation.

Realist evaluation is one such approach that offers great potential in assessing interventions. It is both an established health and social science research methodology, and one that addresses causation and “what works, how, in which conditions and for whom”.

"A realist evaluation is well suited to assess how interventions in complex situations work because it allows the evaluator to deconstruct and assess the causal web of conditions underlying such interventions. It can yield information that indicates how the intervention works and the context conditions that are needed for a particular mechanism to work and, thus, it is likely to be more useful to policymakers than other types of evaluation.” (Bruno Marchal)

The workshop included highly participatory discussions of the initial design, sources and approaches to data collection and analysis, documentation and reporting. Real-world examples and experiences mainly from low- and middle-income country settings were be presented for each stage of the realist evaluation cycle and challenges encountered were discussed. The workshop contributes to the Centre for Development Impact’s (CDI) agenda of broadening the range of appropriate designs for impact evaluation.


  • Bruno Marchal, Institute of Tropical Medicine
  • Sara van Belle, Institute of Tropical Medicine
  • Facilitator: Inka Barnett, Institute of Development Studies

Related resources

Institute of Development Studies, Library Road, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 9RE