Contributing to change
Causality is often reduced to its simplest expression, i.e. linear and mechanical, leaving out considerations of complexity in society and nature or issues of human ethics and responsibility. For many adepts of hard scientific logic, causation happens without causes that are worth pleading or fighting for. Facts are established independently of values, and values are adopted and promoted without requiring scientific justification. These views on the matter of ‘objective causality’, widely held, are misleading in many regards. Among other flaws, they ignore a long-standing Anglo-Saxon tradition where evidence and responsibility are constantly brought together to support a complex profession and field: the practice of legal, evidence-based reasoning. In this chapter, we draw on this tradition to show how fact-finding, reasoning and the exercise of judgment can be applied to assessing meaningful change in a domain that can be attributed to a specific intervention (action, project, programme). The proposed methodology, entitled Attribution and Contribution, helps justify findings and recommendations that follow from a series of considerations – i.e. change observed in a domain, the scope of the intervention, the role of other intervening actors and factors, obstacles along the way, how methodical and deliberate the intervention was, what would have happened had the intervention not taken place, and the reliability of evidence provided to answer these critical questions. Attribution and Contribution addresses each of these in order, converging around a final judgment on the worth of specific interventions in real settings. Through this kind of reasoning the tool offers a reasonable and reasoned response to ‘the attribution problem’ and to broader debates raised at the end of the chapter on the concept of causation in the social sciences.