Debates on approaches to evaluation design appears to have reached an impasse in recent years. The starting point for an evaluation is to ask why it is being conducted, who will benefit and what impact the evaluation will itself have and how? The need for contemporary evaluations to move beyond the usual and count the uncountable cannot be gainsaid.Developed about a decade ago, Outcome Mapping is rapidly revolutionizing the thinking and practice around evaluations today, broadening and complementing the current evaluation practice,while also appreciating the significance of socio-cultural factors and norms that influence interventions, like multiple concurrent partnerships and an ever-adapting environment. Looking at the complexities of interventions today, meaningful evaluations have shifted the focus to promoting self-assessments as the basis for learning and change, while creating space and time for critical reflections among stakeholders and beneficiaries.
Contemporary research into complex adaptive systems (CASs) have continuously highlighted the difficulty of attributing change to any one intervention. Outcome Mapping centralizes the need to design interventions within the context of complexity theory, enabling evaluations to match the dynamics of the systems to which such evaluations are applied, while also reflecting the characteristic behaviors of the complex adaptive systems. The underlying premise of Outcome Mapping – multi-stakeholder participation- a key element of participatory monitoring and evaluation today, foregrounds communication and dialogue that enable evaluations to encompass complex social change processes within their designs. By adapting the intentional design stages of outcome challenges, strategy maps and organizational practices, OM presents evaluation opportunities that examine the practice of multiple stakeholder implementation, capacity building as a means and a process both at targeted institutions and operational environment and the institutional/organizational development parameters and benchmarks. Each of the three areas provide a unique learning bracket for holistic evaluation, providing a platform for learning, accountability and capacity building and consequently enabling actors to improve on their practice and maximize on the desired changes from the interventionswithin an institutional growth and development framework.