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SIG Session [clear filter]
Tuesday, August 4
 

13:30 CEST

Examining the Promise of Systems Thinking to Transform Evaluation Practice

Government agencies, foundations, and international development organizations seek to evaluate the consequences of policies and programs (i.e. social interventions) they fund. Evaluation practitioners who conduct these evaluations typically use methods based on linear models of social interventions and straightforward cause-effect thinking to examine whether interventions achieve their intended consequences. However, these approaches often fail to capture unintended and unpredictable consequences of interventions because they are not suited to addressing uncertain, complex, and non-linear social change. In the last ten years, the evaluation field has begun turning to systems thinking for alternative ways of understanding social interventions and change. While there are significant efforts to import systems thinking to other fields including public health, international aid and development, organizational management, and human services there has been little research on the value of systems thinking for evaluation practice. Translating insights from the systems thinking literature into the language and tasks of evaluation practice holds considerable promise for improving the latter undertaking.

This paper is a critical, analytical review of the interdisciplinary literature on systems thinking in relation to the evaluation of social interventions. The review discovers how systems thinking: (1) is conceptualized in the evaluation literature and (2) contributes to and challenges current assumptions that evaluation practitioners use to frame the task of evaluating social interventions. Journal articles, working papers, briefs, and conference proceedings published between 1988 and 2015 within select intervention-driven fields – public health, international aid and development, organizational management, education, and human services—were analyzed using categories based on a widely accepted, foundational framework of evaluation practice. Drawing on this literature, I argue that systems thinking compels intervention fields and agencies to re-frame the model of social problem solving that guides their work from predict-act-evaluate to adaptive management. For evaluation practice to be relevant and useful in an adaptive management model, it must transform its core assumptions regarding social interventions and context, methods, values, knowledge, and use. I contend that the promise of systems thinking lies in its potential to transform these assumptions and identify significant ways this transformation has begun unfolding in this literature.


Moderators
avatar for Bob Williams

Bob Williams

Independent Consultant, Bob Williams
Independent consultant evaluator, based in New Zealand and holder of the current 2014 -15 Lazarsfeld Evaluation Theory Award from the American Evaluation Association. Has worked for the past few years on ways to make the systems and evaluation fields more attractive to each other... Read More →

Speakers
avatar for Emily Gates

Emily Gates

Graduate Research Assistant, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Emily is an I-STEM graduate research assistant currently working on several program evaluations: the NSF-funded Entrepreneurial Leadership in STEM Teaching and Learning (EnLiST) program; the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Coal Education Program; and... Read More →


Tuesday August 4, 2015 13:30 - 14:00 CEST
Stockholm 2 Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany

14:00 CEST

Forming Networked Social and Labor Relations in a Network Economy

tmedvedeva@mail.ru

The emergence of new social and labor relations in a time of globalization and network economy is a difficult and ambiguous phenomenon, and therefore many researchers have expressed serious concern about the fate of labor and social and labor relations. Globalization and computerization of the economy, the rapid dissemination of knowledge and the formation of universal interdependence have led to the possibility that while capital-based industries diffuse  worldwide, labor is less mobile. Many studies describe the deteriorating situation of workers, the atomization of individuals, individualization of labor, and the erosion of social capital. Workers' organizations, established in an era of an industrial economy, are destroyed or weakened. This violates the principle of equality of opportunity of all key players in social and labor relations to represent and protect their interests.

How does the emergence of a new economy alter the social dialogue between labor and capital? Are we seeing the end of a collective consciousness among workers, amid more individualistic behavior?  The participants in social and labor relations are now in conditions where they are forced to learn the principles of network organization and in this way have the opportunity and responsibility to protect their interests in the new economy. This article explores how the forming of a network economy influences social and labor relations.  It identifies the organizational foundations and principles of social and labor relations in the emerging new economy.  It reviews the influence of culture on how networked social and labor relations are formed using Russia as an example. It considers ways to solve problems in the field of social and labor relations on both organizational and theoretical levels.

Keywords: social and labor relations; economic globalization; network economy; dialogue between labor and capital; an extended system approach.

 


Moderators
avatar for Bob Williams

Bob Williams

Independent Consultant, Bob Williams
Independent consultant evaluator, based in New Zealand and holder of the current 2014 -15 Lazarsfeld Evaluation Theory Award from the American Evaluation Association. Has worked for the past few years on ways to make the systems and evaluation fields more attractive to each other... Read More →

Speakers

Tuesday August 4, 2015 14:00 - 14:30 CEST
Stockholm 2 Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany

16:00 CEST

Systems Thinking for Evaluating in the Anthropocene

The broad aim of this workshop is to provide some better preparation amongst systems thinking practitioners for opportunities of engaging with other professional fields of relevant practice.  The specific purpose is to enable systems practitioners to better understand contemporary challenges of evaluation through a brief systemic inquiry into alternative models of evaluation praxis.

Workshop participants will: 

gain a better understanding of what helps and hinders the uptake of systems thinking and complexity ideas amongst evaluators and commissioners, programme managers,  and policy makers;

acquire some practical experience in using a CSH-lite approach into ideal modelling;

understand the potential contribution of evaluation approaches in their systems practice

develop an initial platform for further exploration of purposeful systemic evaluation. 

Evaluation is the systematic, evidence-based assessment of the value, worth, merit and significance of a project, program, design or any form of intervention.  Evaluation is increasingly recognised as professionalised practise to support the implementation and development of policies, programmes and projects.   Over the past fifty years it has become an established craft; with 106 national associations of practitioners, with combined membership of many tens of thousands. 

Many evaluators,  policy makers and commissioners  particularly in domains of sustainable development and climate change acknowledge that ‘systems approaches’ and ‘recognition of complexity’ are needed.  Indeed to some extent ‘systems’ and ‘complexity’ have been anointed as the next big thing in evaluation.  Despite this, there is still limited actionable understanding of what that thing is, what to do with it, and – most importantly - what the implications are for evaluators and other stakeholders.

The three co-authors/ facilitators of the workshop have each had over ten years experience in working with evaluators promoting systems thinking in practice.  The workshop builds on these experiences, alongside those of workshop participants, in line with some findings from a small action research programme undertaken in the past year by the co-authors entitled ‘Helps and Hinders’. The research has been undertaken with members of the American Evaluation Association (AEA) and the European Evaluation Society (EES) as well as other national and local evaluation professional bodies, to explore what helps with, and what hinders , the uptake of systems thinking and complexity ideas in evaluation practise.

Using these findings as a platform, the workshop design is based on a light-touch application of critical systems heuristics (what we call CSH-lite); a process of ideal design modelling capturing core influences of human systems intervention including (i) values, (ii) power, (iii) knowledge, and (iv) social legitimacy.  The workshop deliberations are orchestrated around an interactive mix of plenary discussion and mini-presentation, and small-group work modelling exercises.  After a short briefing on the helps and hinders research findings, participants will develop simple ideal models of better systemic evaluation based on conversations around (i) impact (cf. values), (ii) decision making (cf. power), and (iii) appropriate forms of know-how and expertise (cf. knowledge).  These group models are shared at plenary.  A final plenary conversation will explore the fourth dimension of  this CSH-lite enquiry - (iv) opportunities and challenges (‘helps and hinders’)  with implementing the idealised model (s) in the real world (cf. issues of social legitimacy). The discussion will explore ways in which to counter prevailing mindsets and politics that may impede systemic evaluation.

A maximum number of 40 participants is recommended for this workshop.  Prior registration on the workshop is strongly recommended in order to avoid disappointment.

 


Speakers
avatar for Richard Hummelbrunner

Richard Hummelbrunner

Senior Associate, OEAR Regionalberatung
In the past Richard Hummelbrunner has worked extensively as practitioner and advisor in the field of regional policy at various levels (local, national, EU, international development).During recent years Richard’s interest has shifted to evaluation, and has gained extensive experience... Read More →
avatar for Martin Reynolds

Martin Reynolds

Senior Lecturer, The Open University
Systems Thinking in Practice Postgraduate Qualifications Director Distance learning Developmental Evaluation ISSS Regular Environmental responsibility
avatar for Bob Williams

Bob Williams

Independent Consultant, Bob Williams
Independent consultant evaluator, based in New Zealand and holder of the current 2014 -15 Lazarsfeld Evaluation Theory Award from the American Evaluation Association. Has worked for the past few years on ways to make the systems and evaluation fields more attractive to each other... Read More →


Tuesday August 4, 2015 16:00 - 18:00 CEST
Copenhagen 2 Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany