Impact evaluation: causal maps, mechanisms and the elusive quest for useful middle range theory

Impact evaluation: causal maps, mechanisms and the elusive quest for useful middle range theory

Date: 23 February 2022

 

Goals of the seminar

  • To demonstrate how causal mapping can aid analysis of evaluation data.
  • To highlight the important distinction in impact evaluation between multi-case cognitive causal mapping and single case causal inference.
  • To illustrate how far causal mapping and mechanism identification in impact evaluation can aid useful middle range theory building.
  • To explain why it is not possible to produce useful middle range theory from empirical evidence alone.

 

Speakers

James Copestake portrait
James Copestake (Chair)
Professor @University of Bath

James Copestake is Professor of International Development at the University of Bath. His research ranges across agrarian change and rural development, development finance and its evaluation, conceptualisation of poverty and wellbeing, and the political economy of development and development studies. He is Codirector of the Centre of Development Studies, Director of Studies for the professional doctorate in policy research and practice at the Institute for Policy Research, and a founding director of Bath SDR Ltd, a social enterprise dedicated to improving qualitative and mixed method impact evaluation.

 
 
 
Nancy Cartwright
Professor of Philosophy @University of Durham/UCSD
Nancy Cartwright is Professor of Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, University of Durham and at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). In the first half of her career at Stanford University she specialised in the philosophy of the natural sciences, especially physics; in the second half, at the London School of Economics and now Durham and at UCSD, she has specialised in philosophy and methodology of the social sciences with special attention to economics. Her current research focusses on objectivity and evidence, especially for evidence-based policy
 
A photo of Steve with glasses, short dark hair, and a beard looks off to the rightSteve Powell
Co Founder and Director @Causal Map Ltd
Steve has led and contributed to research and evaluation projects in many countries around the world over the last 25 years. He has worked on a wide range of topics, from psychosocial programming after the 2004 tsunami and community resilience in East Africa to counting stray dogs in Sarajevo. Steve has expertise in both quantitative and qualitative research and evaluation approaches. He gained his PhD in psychology researching post-traumatic stress after the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This research and evaluation work left Steve longing for a better way to collect and synthesise people’s ideas about ‘what influences what’. This inspired Steve to co-found Causal Map Ltd.
 
Gary Goetz
Professor @Notre Dame University
Gary Goertz is Professor at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of numerous methodological articles and books, including “A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences,” “Multimethod Research, Causal Mechanisms, and Case Studies: An Integrated Approach,” “Social Science Concepts and Measurement}: new and completely revised edition, 2020” (all with Princeton University Press).
 
 
Useful resources:
 
 
White, H. (2021) ‘Using causal chain analysis in systematic reviews’, CEDIL Methods Brief 4, London and Oxford: CEDIL. Available at: https://doi.org/10.51744/CMB4

The open-source functions/algorithms for causal mapping mentioned in the webinar are at https://stevepowell99.github.io/CausalMapFunctions/

The main website for the Causal Map app is causalmap.app

The map itself: https://causalmap.shinyapps.io/CausalMap2

A work in progress, but comprehensive guide to the app and causal mapping is at https://guide.causalmap.app/

Draft paper: Goertz, G. ‘The semantics of causal mechanism figures: using Sherlock Holmes to think about causal mechanisms’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *