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Complexity in Evaluation: Methodological considerations on Evaluation of Health Promotion and Prevention
Project funded by own resources
Project title Complexity in Evaluation: Methodological considerations on Evaluation of Health Promotion and Prevention
Principal Investigator(s) Bergman, Manfred Max
Project Members Ackermann, Guenter
Organisation / Research unit Departement Gesellschaftswissenschaften / Sozialforschung und Methodologie (Bergman)
Project start 08.10.2009
Probable end 31.12.2015
Status Completed

Initial situation

Complex objects of research call for complex methodological answers. At the same time, limited resources for research and evaluation force to compromise and to reduce complexity in sometimes questionable ways. It is a big challenge to attain evaluation results that are practice-oriented, understandable and applicable by decision-makers and practitioners, and at the same time to deal with complexity of social interventions in a scientifically appropriate way.

The concern of the dissertation is to elucidate these fields of tension and it will be lead by the following research questions:

Overarching research question

  • What is the potential of different evaluation approaches and methods to cope with the complexity of social interventions like programs of health promotion and prevention in a most appropriate way?


  • Theoretical analysis: What are the current debates on (appropriate) evaluation of complex social systems and especially of interventions of health promotion and prevention? Which approaches and research methods are recommended to appropriately deal with the complexity of interventions and how should they be applied to cope with complexity the best? Which are the limitations of different approaches and methods?
  • Empirical part: How does evaluation practice in health promotion and prevention nowadays deal with complexity? How is theory being used to conceptualize complexity and which are the methodical approaches taken into account to address complex research objects? Which sources and data are used? How is reduction of complexity being realized and rationalized?

Research design and methodology

The theoretical part will be based on systems theory and complexity science and especially their way to understand and to deal with complexity. The empirical inquiry grounds on two types of data collection methods, document analyses and interviews. In a first step, evaluation reports will be analyzed according to an analytical framework (still to develop). In a second step, comprehensive interviews with the principals of the evaluations deal with the context, the embedment of the evaluations, the perspective of different stakeholders and the use of evaluation results.


I expect to attain new perceptions on evaluation and complexity and to what extent evaluation practice does exhaust the potential of different concepts and methods to deal with complexity. To what extent is it worth to exert oneself for depth and complexity regarding the way stakeholders use evaluation results? Which strategies, concepts and methods can be recommended to consider complexity in an appropriate way against the background of stakeholders needs and their way to use evaluation results?

Keywords Evaluation Complexity Systems Theory
Financed by Other funds

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