Advancing Systems Thinking in Evaluation: A Review of Four Publications

Hargreaves M.B. ; Podems D. (2012)


This article reviews four books published in 2010 and 2011 on the topic of systems thinking in evaluation: Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use by Michael Q. Patton; Purposeful Program Theory: Effective Use of Theories of Change and Logic Models by Sue Funnell and Patricia Rogers; Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner's Toolkit by Bob Williams and Richard Hummelbrunner, and Evaluation in the Face of Uncertainty: Anticipating Surprise and Responding to the Inevitable by Jonathan Morell. These books describe the interdisciplinary landscape of systems theories, encompassing general systems theory, systems dynamics, complexity theory, network theory, and learning systems, and how they can be used to improve evaluation practice. The books appeal to many different and sometimes overlapping audiences. Separately, they address specific information needs about how to incorporate systems concepts into different aspects of evaluation design, data collection, analysis, and reporting. Together, the books complement and reinforce each other, creating a cohesive picture of the state of the art of systems thinking by encouraging thinking about situational dynamics in an often complicated and complex world. The books' authors also advance systems thinking in evaluation by inviting their readers to test out the books' ideas and methods in their own evaluation work. © The Author(s) 2012.

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