Evaluation 2018: Speaking Truth to Power

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Should complexity-aware theories of change be problem-centric? Insights borrowed from system dynamics modeling

Session Number: 2225
Track: Systems in Evaluation
Session Type: Think Tank
Tags: Program theory, systems approaches, systems mapping, theory of change
Session Facilitator: Erin Kenzie [Research Associate - Portland State University]
First Author or Discussion Group Leader: Erin Kenzie [Research Associate - Portland State University]
Time: Nov 03, 2018 (08:00 AM - 09:00 AM)
Room: Hilton - Hope Ballroom C

Audience Level: All Audiences

Session Abstract (150 words): 

There has been a call for approaches to program theory that better reflect the complex dynamics in which programs operate, but methods for meaningfully incorporating complexity remain unclear. System dynamics modeling examines how to identify effective interventions by understanding the structure and behavior of problematic situations. In this Think Tank, the session chair will briefly introduce this problem-centric approach to analyzing interventions and invite participants to consider whether typical theories of change go far enough in connecting problems to interventions. Note that system dynamics modeling will not be presented as a solution; rather, its approach to understanding systems change will be described as a counterpoint to standard impact-based approaches and to stimulate critical inquiry into the scope of program theory.

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