Elaborating the Context-Mechanism-Outcome configuration (CMOc) in realist evaluation: A critical realist perspective

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This article aims to contribute to the methodological discussion initiated by Pawson and Manzano-Santaella (2012). It proposes a possible elaboration of the 'trio of explanatory components' (Pawson and Tilley, 1997: 77) used as a strategy in realist evaluation - the Context-Mechanism-Outcome configuration (CMOc). This temporarily diverts attention away from social programs to focus on the pre-existing context of action and related mechanisms that may be operating within it. It draws on the conceptual and theoretical guidance offered in Roy Bhaskar's Transformational Model of Social Action (TMSA) and elaborated later by Margaret Archer in Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach. The article concludes by articulating how the CMOc elaboration complements the work on realist evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-154
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes



  • Context-Mechanism-Outcome configurations
  • critical realism
  • realist evaluation
  • realist social theory

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