Originalpost to Evaltalk: Are principles of population ecology useful in understanding sustainability as evaluators use the term?

I could use some help (well, a lot of help actually) to work through an idea I have been pondering lately. It seems to me that the principles of population ecology could be very useful in understanding program sustainability. If that’s right, then those concepts could be useful in the evaluation of sustainability. For a long time I have been thinking that any program can be seen as an organism roaming a fitness landscape. It dawned on me that if that’s true, then why not apply some of the more formal concepts in population ecology such as niche width, growth and death rates, carrying capacity, competition and conflict, resource dependency, and all the rest of it.

What I can’t figure out is where to take this idea. I’m not sure how evaluation can use these notions in a heuristic fashion, and I certainly can’t do it in a formal mathematical way. It’s one thing to know the equations, its something else again to know how to apply them, especially since I don’t think there is any data out there that could be used.

If anyone wants to form a small group to bat these ideas about, get in touch with me. If there is enough interest I’ll set up a blog posting on it. Thanks to all who may be interested.

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