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WP/2013/096 Using case studies to explore the external validity of ‘complex’ development interventions

Rising standards for accurately inferring the impact of development projects has not been matched by equivalently rigorous procedures for guiding decisions about whether and how similar results might be expected elsewhere. These ‘external validity’ concerns are especially pressing for ‘complex’ development interventions, in which the explicit purpose is often to adapt projects to local contextual realities and where high quality implementation is paramount to success. A basic analytical framework is provided for assessing the external validity of complex development interventions. It argues for deploying case studies to better identify the conditions under which diverse outcomes are observed, focusing in particular on the salience of contextual idiosyncrasies, implementation capabilities and trajectories of change. Upholding the canonical methodological principle that questions should guide methods, not vice versa, is required if a truly rigorous basis for generalizing claims about likely impact across time, groups, contexts and scales of operation is to be discerned for different kinds of development interventions.
Publisher:
UNU-WIDER
Series:
WIDER Working Paper
Volume:
2013/096
Title:
WP/2013/096 Using case studies to explore the external validity of ‘complex’ development interventions
Authors:
Michael Woolcock
Publication date:
October 2013
ISBN 13 Web:
978-92-9230-673-1
Copyright holder:
© UNU-WIDER
Copyright year:
2013
Keywords:
case studies, external validity, complexity, evaluation
JEL:
O1, B40
Sponsor:
UNU-WIDER gratefully acknowledges specific programme contributions from the governments of Denmark (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danida) and Sweden (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency—Sida) for ReCom. UNU-WIDER also gratefully acknowledges core financial support to its work programme from the governments of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Format:
online
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