Evaluation 2019: Paths to the Future of Evaluation: Contribution, Leadership, and Renewal

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Charting New Paths: Building Systems-Aware M&E Practices at Omidyar Network, Humanity United, and Democracy Fund

Session Number: 2404
Track: Systems in Evaluation
Session Type: Panel
Tags: system thinking
Session Chair: Devon Ysaguirre [Manager, Strategy and Learning - Democracy Fund]
Presenter 1: Elizabeth Ruedy [Democracy Fund]
Presenter 2: Jessica Ruth Kiessel [Head of Learning and Impact - Omidyar Network]
Presenter 3: Jen Heeg [Manager for Strategy, Learning, & Impact - Humanity United]
Time: Nov 15, 2019 (05:45 PM - 06:30 PM)
Room: CC M100 A

Abstract 1 Title: It's (More Than) Complicated: Lessons From Setting Up a Complexity-Aware Practice
Presentation Abstract 1:

Democracy Fund works to impact a complex political system made of an intricate web of American institutions, interest groups, individual leaders, and citizens — all connected in countless ways. The Strategy, Impact, and Learning (SIL) team was established with a mandate to determine whether, and how, our investments are contributing to a stronger democracy that better meets the needs of the American people. As a relatively new team working within a relatively new organization, setting up our practice has meant grappling with questions like: How do we understand impact, particularly in the face of rapid and emerging threats to our norms and institutions? How can we track and make sense of incremental progress? And how can we connect micro- and macro-level data to better understand what is shaping current trends, and how the system is changing? This presentation will discuss how Democracy Fund has tried to infuse systems philosophy into every aspect of its practice, and the interesting tradeoffs that’s resulted in.

Abstract 2 Title: We Just Need to Get to Work: early leanings from efforts to increase complexity awareness and support emergence within Omidyar Network
Presentation Abstract 2:

Omidyar Network is known for having pioneered a combination of impact investing with traditional grantmaking in a sector-focused approach to philanthropy. In 2019, Omidyar Network adopted a new strategy focused on changing the ‘rules of the game’ in order to reimagine capitalism, make technology good for people, and transition to a more pluralistic world.  While systems thinking has always been part of Omidyar Network’s DNA, successful execution of the new strategy requires greater complexity awareness. This presentation will share the early experience of the Learning and Impact Team in moving Omidyar Networks towards a new way of working that recognizes complexity and supports emergence, while still appealing to the pragmatic and business-oriented perspectives of Omidyar Network staff.

Abstract 3 Title: Humanity United’s Journey Toward a Holistic Systems Practice
Presentation Abstract 3:

Humanity United (HU) engages with several complex global challenges, primarily in countering human trafficking and peacebuilding, with work in the US, Africa, Latin America, and Asia.  The Strategy, Learning, and Impact team at HU has spent the last several years designing a systems and complexity practice in partnership with our programs, starting with the use of systems mapping in our strategy phases, and expanding towards a revamp of our entire MEL practice, including the development of complexity-aware Theories of Change, building in moments for learning and adaptation, ongoing systems sensing, and the application of appropriately-scaled complexity-aware M&E techniques.  This presentation reflects on the successes and challenges of an evolving complexity-aware approach at various points in the lifespan of our programs and portfolios, and includes a discussion of the organizational change strategies deployed to move the entire organization toward the learning edge of systems and complexity thinking in development.  

Audience Level: All Audiences

Session Abstract (150 words): 

A lot of organizations are embracing systems-thinking as a way to understand the problems they’re trying to solve and the impact they hope to achieve. There’s also been some innovative work within the evaluation community on systems-aware methods to monitor, evaluate and learn about these programs. But often times, systems-aware approaches end up having to be retro-fitted onto existing monitoring, evaluation and learning practices that are based on more traditional, linear theories of change. What if we had the chance to build an entirely new practice from the ground up, and to infuse systems thinking into every aspect of it? Three foundations - Humanity United, Omidyar Network, and Democracy Fund - have done just that. And while the opportunity was as amazing as you might think, it was also a lot more challenging! Evaluation staff from each of the three foundations will present on their brand-new MEL practices and share how we're tackling questions like: How do you articulate a whole-systems theory of change? Can quantitative data capture the complexity of systems change? Is there such thing as a systems-friendly performance dashboard?

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Cancellation Policy: Refunds less a $50 fee will be granted for requests received in writing prior to 11:59 PM EDT October 11, 2019. Email cancellation requests to registration@eval.org. All refunds are processed after the meeting. After October 11, 2019 all sales are final. For Evaluation 2019, international attendees and presenters who encounter complications due to the international travel environment will have up to 30 days after the event to request a refund and submit appropriate documentation. No administrative fee will apply for approved international requests.