Improving outcomes through Q sort based realist evaluation: A Masterclass

It is widely accepted that context matters because it influences both the choices that people make and the possible outcomes of chosen interventions. At a time when governments across Australia are keenly seeking definitive evidence on how policies and programs are working, public sector leaders and executives need to be able to articulate and conclusively demonstrate what works and what doesn’t. But it’s a lot more than a binary question.

Realist evaluation aims to identify the underlying generative mechanisms that explain ‘how’ the outcomes were caused and the influence of context. In doing so realist evaluators ask:

“What works, for whom, in what respects, to what extent, in what contexts, and why?”

Today, members of the Australian Public Service are being challenged to be better evaluators. In response UNSW has created Improving outcomes through Q sort based realist evaluation: A Masterclass.

As an engaging and interactive day-long small group course, it’s purposefully designed for those who need to grasp and undertake effective evaluation quickly.

Participants will consider issues such as why and when yo use realist evaluation, what type of methodology and methods to use, the potential contribution of Q methodology and ideas for future practice.

At the end of the masterclass, participants will:

  • Understand why and when a realist evaluation strategy would be appropriate;
  • Recognise the role and implications of context upon evaluation;
  • Have an overview of the different methodology and methods that could be used;
  • Have an insight into how to identify and develop the concourse and statements for a Q based evaluation;
  • Develop possible strategies for practice.


Professor Steven Henderson

Head of Impact and Social Innovation and Professor of Strategy, Southampton Solent University

Professor Deborah Blackman

Professor in Public Sector Management Strategy and Deputy Director of the Public Service Research Group at UNSW, Canberra

Dates & Registration

Duration: 1 day, Thursday 2 November 2017

Location: UNSW Canberra at Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra

Standard Price: $790

About UNSW Public Service Research Group:

The Public Service Research Group (PSRG) was established to partner with organisational clients to produce new insights into effective public service implementation and evaluation. PSRG performs timely, high-quality and reliable research into public policy implementation as well as offering Executive Education tailored for the public sector and not for profit organisations.

Whether you are an individual looking for a chance to gain new skills, a leader wanting to work with a group to further skills and capabilities in a business-critical space or an organisation looking to develop the next cadre of leadership the PSRG team can design and deliver something for you.


Executive Education, Public Sector Research Group

02 6268 8040


UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra