The Systems TIG held its first planning meeting in Atlanta in 2004 (attendance: 4). We chose Patricia Rogers as our first TIG chair, Bob Williams and Jan Noga as program co-chairs, and Deb Wasserman as our go-to for communications and, eventually, our first webmaster. We had no idea what to expect as we put together our first program for the Toronto meeting in 2005. Attendance at our first official business meeting far exceeded our expectations, and the room’s capacity, with more than 60 people filling the room and spilling out into the corridor outside. We sponsored 12 sessions that year in addition to the business meeting.
Our next meeting was Portland in 2006. We again sponsored 12 sessions plus our business meeting. That was the year we launched the Big TIG question during the business meeting, which has since become an annual tradition. During Portland, Bob Williams and Iraj Imam brought together their team of authors for planning meetings during the conference as they crafted a first-ever anthology on systems thinking for evaluation.
Since then, the TIG has experienced tremendous growth. From the start, TIG leadership has placed a priority on welcoming members all at levels of comfort and familiarity with systems thinking. As a result, we have developed a wonderfully diverse membership of professionals from 35+ countries and spanning a wide range of experience in systems thinking and in evaluation. Several members have published books focusing on systems thinking and evaluation, and we have been represented on the board by at least 4 TIG members over the last 10 years.
As the TIG grew, we began to seek other opportunities for TIG members to connect outside the business meeting. In 2010, the TIG sponsored one of the Thursday Nights Out organized by AEA. It was so well-received that the TIG has continued the tradition by sponsoring its own social event during the conference – a Mexican dinner in Anaheim, drinks and munchies at the top of the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis. In 2013, we expanded our social and co-hosted the event with the Community Psychology TIG at a local bar in Washington DC. In 2014, our social event was co-hosted by the Community Psychology and Evaluation Use TIGs as we connected over drinks and a buffet dinner in our own room at Appaloosa Grill in Denver.
A priority for the TIG has been to craft that were both interesting and accessible to all systems thinkers, whether novice or experienced. As a result, we’ve seen the focus of our conference sessions evolving from defining this thing called systems thinking to how we’re using systems thinking in our work and how we can support others in the use of systems thinking in evaluation practice. In Denver, we were very excited to be sponsoring or co-sponsoring 31 sessions plus 2 Presidential Strand sessions that reflected this evolution.
In Denver, we also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the TIG’s founding and Bob Williams’ receipt of the Lazersfeld Award with cake and fun during the business meeting. We continue the celebration through 2015 – the anniversary of our first conference program at AEA – as we work to expand the TIG into an adaptive learning network to support TIG members in their work as evaluators and systems thinkers.