Working with Assumptions in International Development Program Evaluation

With a Foreword by Michael Bamberger

  • Apollo M. Nkwake

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxix
  2. Apollo M. Nkwake
    Pages 1-9
  3. Designing and Evaluating Complex Development Programs

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 11-11
    2. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 13-27
    3. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 29-53
    4. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 55-70
  4. Evaluation Theory and Assumptions

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 71-71
    2. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 73-85
    3. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 87-96
    4. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 97-114
  5. Explicating Tacit Program Assumptions

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 115-115
    2. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 117-129
    3. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 131-142
    4. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 143-162
  6. Conclusions

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 163-163
    2. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 165-179
    3. Apollo M. Nkwake
      Pages 181-185
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 207-212

About this book


This book discusses the crucial place that assumptions hold in conceptualizing, implementing, and evaluating development programs. It suggests simple ways for stakeholders and evaluators to 1) examine their assumptions about program theory and environmental conditions and 2) develop and carry out effective program monitoring and evaluation in light of those assumptions. A survey of evaluators from an international development agency reviewed the state of practice on assumptions-aware evaluation. This 2nd edition has been updated with further illustrations, case studies, and frameworks that have been researched and tested in the years since the first edition.

Regardless of geography or goal, development programs and policies are fueled by a complex network of implicit ideas. Stakeholders may hold assumptions about purposes, outcomes, methodology, and the value of project evaluation and evaluators—which may or may not be shared by the evaluators.  A major barrier to viable program evaluations is that development programs are based on assumptions that often are not well articulated. In designing programs, stakeholders often lack clear outlines for how implemented interventions will bring desired changes. This lack of clarity masks critical risks to program success and makes it challenging to evaluate such programs. Methods that have attempted to address this dilemma have been popularized as theory of change or other theory‐based approaches. Often, however, theory-based methods do not sufficiently clarify how program managers or evaluators should work with the assumptions inherent in the connections between the steps. The critical examination of assumptions in evaluation is essential for effective evaluations and evaluative thinking.

"This updated edition presents us with a new opportunity to delve into both the theoretical and practical aspects of paradigmatic, prescriptive, and causal assumptions. We need to learn, and apply these insights with the deep attention they deserve."

Zenda OfirPh.D., Independent Evaluator, Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow, Robert Bosch Academy, Berlin, Germany

This thought-provoking book explains why assumptions are an essential condition within the theories and methodologies of evaluation and how assumptions influence the ways that evaluators approach their work…It will enrich the ways that evaluators develop their models, devise their methodologies, interpret their data, and interact with their stakeholders.

Jonny Morell, Ph.D., President, 4.669… Evaluation and Planning


assumptions in development evaluation monitoring program assumptions non profit evaluation program implementation program theory approaches theory of change program design program theory complexity evolution design validity credibility sustainable development goals program outcomes program impact program success

Authors and affiliations

  • Apollo M. Nkwake
    • 1
  1. 1.Questions LLCMarylandUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Social Sciences
  • Print ISBN 978-3-030-33003-3
  • Online ISBN 978-3-030-33004-0
  • Buy this book on publisher's site