CECAN hosted a seminar at BEIS on 11th July, with Helen Wilkinson of Risk Solutions and Harry Walton of the Environment Agency talking about the use of dependency modelling to support evaluation in complex environments.
In particular the focus was on the work that Risk Solutions and the EA have been doing together on understanding and quantifying the value of flood risk management activities.
The ‘theory of change’ evaluation strategy (described in the Magenta book) was developed to help tackle evaluation of complex multi-level, multi-intervention initiatives.
Elements of theory of change mapping are now widely used to both plan and evaluate new initiatives. However, the approach has been criticized for being too ‘linear’ to effectively reflect the complexity inherent in many programmes or situations.
Dependency modelling provides one way of meeting this challenge.
Risk Solutions worked with the Environment Agency to develop and quantify a dependency model to evaluate the contribution of the different types of flood risk management activity the Environment Agency engage in on the achievement of outcomes.
As well as providing, for the first time, a clear comparison of the value of ‘softer’ activities (such as stakeholder engagement around community resilience) with capital investment in flood defences, the model enabled the Environment Agency to demonstrate the potential impact of changes in activities on flood risk outcomes.
The work therefore effectively bridged the gap between evaluation and the strategic planning of activities in complex, changing environments. Its greatest value lay in the deeper understanding of how the FCRM system works that was generated by undertaking the analysis, rather than in the results themselves.
In this seminar Dr Helen Wilkinson (Risk Solutions) and Harry Walton (Environment Agency) described the construction of the model, its use to support evaluation, its strengths and weaknesses and how the approach could deliver value in other applications.