Overview of the book
The book is in several Sections, each containing several Chapters. Here is a brief overview of each Section.
Our main aim in this book is to look closely at Theories of Change. But as Theories of Change are a special type of Theory, we need to look at Theories in general first. In this first section of the book, we start to show how potentially any social science Theory can be expressed purely as an assemblage of simple Theories, basic units in which one or more Variables influence a single consequence Variable.
In the first sections of this book we will try to keep things as simple as possible, leaving some of the more wicked problems (those that involve wicked Rules - those which are chaotic, emerging, etc.) to Section IV.
In this section, we move from generic Theories about how things work in the social world, to the kinds of Theories of Change we meet in monitoring and evaluation.
This section is about the steps of actually doing evaluation using Theorymaker, based on Theories, and in particular based on Theories of Change. We see that the evaluation process is essentially a complex Mechanism which takes a Project (the Mechanism which a Theory of Change describes) as its input and outputs a Report on the quality of the Project; how well did it maximise value?
Evaluation Report (reporting Mechanism)Best Adequate Theory of the Project to be evaluated
In most cases, this reporting Mechanism will be wicked - it will involve emerging Variables and Rules, etc. Just as real-world projects only get interesting when they get wicked, real-world evaluations almost always involve wicked reporting Rules. But just as the easiest way to learn how Theorymaker deals with projects and Theories of Change is to look at non-wicked cases first, the easiest way to learn about Evaluation from a Theorymaker perspective is also to look at the non-wicked cases first.
Following a couple of initial Chapters presenting Evaluation as a kind of Reporting, the rest of the Chapters in this Section each describe a step in an idealised evaluation.
The section extends Theorymaker from the simplistic first chapters.
A bewildering array of different, wicked, things start to happen - from chaos to complexity - as soon as we are just a little more relaxed about what count as Statements, Variables and Rules.
First, we allow Statements, Variables, Rules and Theories which are mostly but not totally clear: which are vague. For example, most of the Levels of a vague Variable are clearly defined but there are some grey areas, for example the lowest and highest Levels.
Next, we allow Statements, Variables, Rules and Theories which we humans can recognise as well-defined, but for which we cannot list all possible cases in advance: they are open. For example, we can usually agree on sorting childrens paintings in a competition into good and not-so-good but we would have a hard time specifying in advance how to do that. Openness relates to emergence, self-editing and unpredictability.
Vagueness and openness are similar and overlap with one another.
We also allow rich Statements, Variables and Rules. We can think of these as the multi-media versions.
This will be perhaps the most substantial section of this book, but so far there is not much to see here at the website.
Complexity: multiple stakeholders bring multiple motivations, abilities and Theories.
In this final section, the Theorymaker native speakers leave their island to show us how many of our dearest evaluation theories and approaches can be expressed even better in Theorymaker, from Outcome Mapping and Outcome Harvesting to Goal-Free Evaluation.
This section will contain the most opinionated chapters and will republish some blog posts. You will find lots of polemic about how useful Theorymaker can be for doing evaluation and exactly what is wrong and right with some of those existing approaches.
Right now there are only a couple of chapters in this section. There are plenty more in preparation.