Introduction

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Contents of this page

Purpose

ParEvo is a method of developing alternative past histories or future scenarios, using a participatory evolutionary process  (hence ParEvo). This involves the re-iteration of variation, selection and reproduction i.e. the evolutionary algorithm (Campbell, 1960; Dennett, 1996:48-60).The process is designed to be used by multiple people, to produce a collective good – a set of storylines. In addition, the process generates data on the structure of participation – how people have collaborated to produce those storylines..

When used to look forward ParEvo can be seen as a form of participatory exploration of alternate futures. When used to look back it can be seen as a form of participatory public history. Most of its use to date has been future oriented.

For participants, the ParEvo app can be used to achieve two related kinds of purposes. The first is cognitive: to enable participants to creatively think about alternative futures, and how they do that thinking (meta-cognition). The second is more behavioral: to prompt consideration of ways of responding to possible futures, in anticipation and/or after the event, and to exploit and/or mitigate the consequences. This is done through the participatory identification of alternative storylines/scenarios about what might happen in the future, and the evaluation of those storylines, and the analysis of the implications of those storylines. For more detail on how this can be done see the Ten Stages Of A ParEvo Exercise page.

For the Facilitators of ParEvo exercises, and the Administrator, there is another higher order purpose,which is to learn how to optimally design a ParEvo exercise. ParEvo has been made available on a platform where people can experiment with different ways of running participatory explorations of alternative futures. All the data from ParEvo exercises can be retained and made available for comparison and analysis (subject to the consent of the Facilitators of those exercises).

ParEvo is different from many scenario planning approaches in the very structured nature of people’s participation, and the ability to evaluate and analyse participation data and its relationship to the types of scenarios that are developed. One important source of theory and research findings to inform this kind of analysis is the field of collective intelligence (whereby groups can be more productive and creative than their best individual members). For more information on ways of analysing the content and participation dimensions of a ParEvo exercise go to the Content Analysis and Participation Analysis pages of the ParEvo website.

Design

Process design slide 2019 05 29 Vs 2

Each ParEvo exercise involves 10 steps, explained in detail here on another page of this same website

Documentation

2022: CEDIL Webinar: The collaborative exploration of alternative futures: A different approach to Theories of Change

2021: PowerPoint presentation to the UK Evaluation Society

2021: Scanning the Horizon Methods Workshop: Par Evo, video of webinar for the International Civil Society Centre, Germany

2020: A 12 minute YouTube video explaining how ParEvo works

2020: “Evaluating the Future” podcast for the European Union Evaluation Support Services team.

2020: See also my more recent UK Evaluation Society Webinar video here: “Evaluating the Future” pw: b4y9Wr02

2019: A 12 slide PowerPoint presentation produced in early 2019 is available here

2019: A presentation made at the UK Evaluation Society Evaluation 2019 conference is available here.

Development

This website documents the design of the ParEvo process, and how that design has developed over time. The core concept was developed by Rick Davies in the 1990s, during the development of his PhD thesis on organisational learning (available here). Its first implementation took place before the widespread availability of the internet and is described on this 2007 MandE NEWS webpage. 

In late 2018 two pretests of a web-based version were carried out with the help of 23 volunteer participants spread across 12 countries. These pre-tests used a very labour intensive combination of online surveys, Excel spreadsheets, network visualisation software, web page editors and FTP software.

Aptivate has now helped Rick Davies develop a web app to make this process available free and online to multiple parties.  The new web-based version solicits, presents and analyses the contents generated by participants on a more automated, timely and error-free basis. It allows multiple groups to do so, via free accounts on this dedicated ParEvo web site. To try out this app, contact: rick.davies@gmail.com or fill in this form.

Copyright

Rick Davies owns the copyright to the ParEvo process described on this website. Others can use this process, at no cost, if a request is made to, and agreed by, Rick Davies beforehand. For more information on copyright see:

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