Evaluation 2017: From Learning to Action

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Guiding Principles for the Effective Use of Systems Thinking and Complexity Science in Evaluation: Final Phase of Development

Session Number: 2204
Track: AEA Sponsored Sessions
Session Type: Multipaper
Tags: Principles
Session Chair: Heather Britt [Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist - Social Solutions International]
Discussant: Margaret Hargreaves [Principal Associate - Community Science]
Presenter 1: Heather Britt [Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist - Social Solutions International]
Presenter 2: Janice Noga [Owner - Pathfinder Evaluation and Consulting]
Presenter 3: Margaret Hargreaves [Principal Associate - Community Science]
Time: Nov 11, 2017 (10:15 AM - 11:00 AM)
Room: Washington 6

Abstract 1 Title: Guiding Principles for Systems in Evaluation: Building a Big Tent
Presentation Abstract 1:

This presentation provides an overview of the SETIG’s three-year project to develop a set of guiding principles for the effective use of systems thinking and complexity science in evaluation.  This first presenter reviews the three goals of the project: (1) to gather information about the use of systems thinking and complexity science in current evaluation practice; (2) to use that information to develop consensus on a set of guiding principles; and (3) to disseminate these principles to support more effective use of systems and complexity concepts.  The presentation reviews the rationale and need for creating guiding principles in this area, recap the project’s major activities and milestones, and provide a road map of what is covered in the other two presentations, and a discussion of the significance of the project for the SETIG and its work.


Abstract 2 Title: Guiding Principles for Systems in Evaluation: Engaging the Community
Presentation Abstract 2:

This second presentation focuses on the third and final phase of developing the set of guiding principles for SETIG use. The presentation starts with a review of the challenges of the process: (1) a discipline exemplified by its complexity, multiple research traditions, perspectives, and approaches; (2) no single institution authorized to set such standards; and (3) no funding mechanism to support such an effort. The presentation describes the ways in which the SETIG addressed these challenges by designing and implementing a participatory process of consensus building dialogues that: (1) pooled the volunteer time and professional talents of SETIG members and other stakeholders; (2) called on the close ties of systems evaluators across the globe to lead and facilitate the dialogue sessions; and (3) build on the SETIG’s prior experience using virtual communications platforms for its 2015 and 2016 SETIG "Unconferences".  The presentation ends with lessons learned from this process.


Abstract 3 Title: Guiding Principles for Systems in Evaluation: Process Completed
Presentation Abstract 3:

The third speaker presents the set of guiding principles that resulted from the consensus building process. The presentation reviews the SETIG’s goals for the guiding principles, based on the work of Michael Q Patton.  The goals are that the principles:  (1) provide guidance on how to use systems thinking and complexity science effectively in evaluation, (2) are useful to systems evaluators, (3) inspire the use of evaluation approaches that are complexity-informed, (4) support their ongoing development and adaptation as the systems in evaluation field evolves, and (5) can be evaluated by the SETIG.  The presentation then introduces the new, post-consensus- set of principles, and shows how they have evolved from the first draft set initially developed and shared with the Systems TIG in 2016.  The presentation ends with a discussion of the project’s final steps, which include the SETIG’s formal approval and dissemination of the principles.


Theme: Learning to Enhance Evaluation
Audience Level: All Audiences

Session Abstract (150 words): 

This panel describes the SETIG’s three-year project to develop a set of guiding principles for the effective use of systems thinking and complexity science in evaluation.  The project involved gathering information about the use of systems thinking and complexity science in current evaluation practice and using that information to create and develop consensus around a set of principles. The panel reports on the project’s consensus building process, and introduces the set of guiding principles that resulted from that process. The panel introduces the new, post-consensus- set of principles, and shows how they have evolved from the first draft set initially developed and shared with the Systems TIG in 2016.  The presentation ends with a discussion of the project’s final steps, which include the SETIG’s formal approval and dissemination of the principles.



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