Meg Hargreaves
Senior Fellow, Economics, Justice, and Society Department, NORC
Jonny Morell
President, 4.669… Evaluation and Planning

Development Along Two Directions
We are looking for suggestions about content and authors for posts on:

  • research and theory in complexity and systems, and
  • application to evaluation.Posts should be short and focused.

This tactic may not fit the spirit of “systems”, but it will educate and not overwhelm.

Please contact us if you have ideas to share.
To convey a sense of what we have in mind, here is an example.
Jonny’s Example based on Accident Investigation
Consider accident investigation and its relationship to path dependence. It is possible to trace causation in retrospect and to use that knowledge to minimize the likelihood that a class of accidents will reoccur. One would be foolish ignore these analyses. But precisely what accidents will be affected by the change? Unknown and largely unknowable. Is there any certainty that other causal paths won’t lead to the same type of accidents? No certainty at all.
I’d write between three and six paragraphs. There would be references but no deep explanation. I’d present the principles in a few sentences and give an example of how an evaluation would differ if I did or did not take path dependence seriously.

4 thoughts on “Looking for Input on Next Steps: What do research and theory in complexity and systems tell us about evaluation practice and evaluation theory?

  1. So I’m not following any site on wordpress. I just did a search on Jonny’s name ad this came up. So I’m typing this from wordpress. But my original contribution is nowhere to be found on wordpress either.

  2. From Jordan Multer
    I will offer one thought regarding using an example based on accident investigation that you propose on the website. The question you raise is a good one. From a systems perspective (systems dynamics in particular) this issue is addressed at the level of archetypes. There are repeating patterns that you can use to generalize about patterns in accidents. Your point about path dependence and being knowable may be useful in the inability to predict when an accident will happen or the probability that a particular accident will happen. However that fact that accident analysis has contributed to lower accident rates where it has been used suggests that it is still a useful exercise in spite of the this constraint you mention.

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