Constructing a Deep Complexity and Systems Science Foundation for the Field of Evaluation

Jonny Morell, PhD
Meg Hargreaves PhD

This section of the blog Evaluation Uncertainty, Surprises in Programs and their Evaluations is an effort to continue and expand prior work setting evaluation theory and evaluation practice within a deep understanding of complexity and systems science research and theory. Four beliefs motivate our current efforts.

  • Not all evaluation needs to invoke systems concepts, but much of it does.
  • When system concepts are needed, evaluators must use those concepts to make operational decisions about the theoretical frameworks and models they construct, the methodologies they devise, and the meaning they draw from data.
  • To make those wise decisions, evaluators require deep-seated understanding of the research and theory that has been generated by complexity and system science.
  • At present, too little of evaluation’s reliance on systems is based on such deep understanding.

“This section of the blog”, and “begin” and are important phrases in the opening paragraph. We hope that what we are doing here will spur a wider range of discussion and inquiry.

We envision two kinds of contributions to this blog. To start, posts will say nothing at all about evaluation. Rather, evaluators will provide explanations of the intellectual domains within complexity and system science that affect their work. We see those contributions as providing an imperfect, but reasonably wide view of the domains of complexity and system science that influence how evaluation is done. We want these posts to be short, somewhere between one and four paragraphs.

Once a there is sufficient variety of material, contributions will then broaden to a wider set of evaluators, more discussion of complexity and system roots, and examples of how research and theory in the fields of complexity and systems affected practical decisions about theoretical frameworks, models, metrics, and methodologies.

One thought on “Constructing a Deep Complexity and Systems Science Foundation for the Field of Evaluation

  1. Yes this conversation is long overdue. Happy to help in any way I can. Incidentally sorry I was unable to join your recent webinar. Middle of the night

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