Framework 2: methods for intervening effectively
We use the Medical Research Council’s revised framework for developing and evaluating complex public health interventions to guide approaches to intervention design, implementation and evaluation.
The importance of theory-based design and evaluation of interventions is well established (Chen & Rossi, 1983; Michie et al., 2005; Rogers & Weiss, 2007; Weiss, 1997). Key to this is an explicit programme theory or theory of change; a description of the causal chain of activities intended to produce a positive intervention outcome (Fraser et al., 2009). The benefits of such theories include more effective interventions, a better understanding of why they are effective, and improved implementation (Bonell et al., 2015; Cooksy et al., 2001; Kinmoth et al., 2008). Researchers commonly specify theories of interventions with the help of stakeholders, using formal consensus processes such as the Delphi and nominal group techniques (Julian, 1997; Van Urk et al., 2015).
Conservation has suffered from a lack of proper design and evaluation, resulting in an ineffective use of resources and impacts that cannot be measured (Salafsky et al., 2002, Crees et al., 2016). Without an adequate evidence base, projects can be implemented based on wishful thinking (Margoluis et al 2013). Well-designed projects are based on clear objectives, explicit theories of change, supported by research, with built-in monitoring and evaluation, thus allowing evaluation of outcomes, lesson learning and adaptive management to take place (Stem et al., 2005, Margolouis et al., 2009, Sweeney, 2011). However, examples of conservation interventions that fulfil these design criteria are still limited (Pullin & Knight, 2001, Ferraro & Pattanayak, 2006, Crees et al., 2016). Many project management tools are now available to conservationists [e.g. Miradi (CMP, Sitka, 2016), Foundations of Success (FOS, 2016) & CCF Framework (Kapos et al., 2008)], but few studies have evaluated whether projects are actually following the basic criteria for good design and evaluation (Ewen et al., 2014).
Researcher: Dr Diogo Veríssimo