Evaluating Impact
Principles-Focused Evaluation

Principles-Focused Evaluation (P-FE)

Many social innovators working on complex issues are driven by principles, as much as theories of change and plans. In fact, principles are often included as a central part of the strategy.

Principles may:

  • Reflect deeply held values and beliefs about what should be done for ethical reasons (e.g., that people most affected by an intervention should be involved in selecting, designing and evaluating it, also known as 'nothing about us without us’); and,
  • Improve the chances of making progress on complex issues (e.g., “Housing First” vulnerable persons who find themselves homeless should be given safe and adequate housing BEFORE they can be expected to wrestle with their other vulnerabilities).

Despite the importance of both types of principles in social innovation, there has been little guidance on how to evaluate their meaningfulness, application and usefulness on the ground. Until now. Principles-Focused Evaluation, the latest contribution from Michael Quinn Patton, is designed to address this gap. And it has quickly caught the attention of people from many different disciplines.

"Principles-Focused Evaluation provides a practical toolkit for guiding and shaping the urgent work of shifting institutions, systems, and cultures from maladaptive to adaptive states. […] This is a timely and important book for evaluators -- and for the social innovators, policymakers, educators, and funders with whom they work."

- Stephen Huddart, President and CEO, The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation


This page captures Tamarack-supported exploration of this important contribution to the field of social innovation and community change.




A Book Review

Consider the case for integrating P-FE into your evaluation practice

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A Webinar 

Dive deeper into P-FE and its relevance and application in a range of settings

  • Watch this webinar with Michael Quinn Patton and Mark Cabaj discussing the key themes and concepts from the book Principles-Focused Evaluation: The GUIDE 

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An Evaluation Masterclass

Have your questions answered through some of the key resources created at Tamarack's Evaluation Masterclass

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Additional Resources

  • Michael Quinn Patton’s book on principles-focused evaluation is the first ever comprehensive exploration of this topic in the English-speaking world. Buy it here.

  • The Strategy Continuum is a new resource that integrates principles-based strategy and evaluation as part of broader scan of different strategies for tackling complex change initiatives.

  • Read an article in which Michael Quinn Patton uses a utlization-focused, developmental, and principles-focused evaluation approach to evaluate the Woman Affirming Motherhood program.

Evaluating Impact

The Learning Centre's Evaluating Impact Idea Area is curated by Mark Cabaj. Mark is President of the consulting company From Here to There and an Associate of the Tamarack Institute. 

Learn more about Evaluating Impact