February 2016 Newsletter

Systems mirror


Systems in Evaluation TIG

Winter 2016 Newsletter





The Systems in Evaluation TIG (SETIG) leadership is excited about our plans for engagement with the TIG membership in 2016. The outgoing and incoming SETIG leadership teams collaborated to establish three action teams to carry forward important SETIG initiatives.

  • The Manifesto Action Team is shepherding a dialogue to develop consensus on the core elements of current systems thinking in evaluation practice.
  • The (Un)Conference Action Team convened a landmark virtual learning and networking event last year. This year’s event promises to build on that success to provide exciting ways for our SETIG membership to engage with each other between annual AEA conferences.
  • The Website and Social Media Action Team will work side-by-side with the SETIG Webmaster to expand communication with our community.


This newsletter will introduce you to each team, its plans for the coming year and how you can get involved. The SETIG website now features a dedicated page for each action team for posting updates and receiving your input.


Looking forward to an exciting year!

The SETIG Leadership Team,

Heather Britt, Chair (email Heather)

Ginger Fitzhugh, Program Co-Chair (email Ginger)

Brandon Coffee-Borden, Program Co-Chair (email Brandon)



SETIG Leadership Notes


Demonstrating What Systemic Thinking Brings to Design

By Heather Britt, SETIG Chair


The conference theme for Evaluation 2016, “Evaluation + Design,” is an opening for the SETIG to demonstrate how systemic thinking can strengthen program design, evaluation design and information design. It is exciting to think about what systems thinking can bring to program and evaluation design, especially given how the field is maturing through practice and reflection.


Let’s be honest: the systems-in-evaluation community has struggled with information design. At the 2014 AEA conference, Bob Williams and Richard Hummelbrunner convened a well-attended think tank entitled, ‘Realizing the Vision: What Helps and Hinders the Use of Systems ideas in Evaluation…Voices from the Global Field.’ An emerging theme of this session was how difficulties in communicating systems concepts discourages practitioners from using systemic thinking in evaluation. This theme was echoed by results from the SETIG survey conducted in the fall of 2015.


Effective information design for systems-in-evaluation goes beyond limiting jargon and using better data visualization. It even goes beyond better communication about key concepts and their unique contributions to evaluation practice. The heart of the issue of information design for the systems-in-evaluation community points to fundamental questions we are asking about our role in the broader evaluation community:

  • How can we be intellectually provocative yet accessible? Clear, without being reductionist?
  • If everyone is using systems thinking, how can we communicate systems’ distinct value?
  • Can we embrace the diversity – even contradictions – in our thought space so that we don’t become an impenetrable briar patch to newcomers?


On the heels of last year’s SETIG meeting, and as the group enters its second decade, I invite you to join this lively dialogue by tying the SETIG groundswell to all aspects of the conference theme. We look forward to proposals that explore and inspire us with examples of connections between systemic thinking and design for programs, evaluation, and information sharing.


Please note: The deadline for proposal submissions has been extended to March 15. The full call for proposals can be found here.


SETIG Manifesto Action Team

Update on SETIG Project: Systems in Evaluation Practice

By Meg Hargreaves


In 2015, the Systems in Evaluation TIG (SETIG) embarked on an ambitious three-phase project to: (1) gather information about the use of systems thinking in current evaluation practice; (2) use that information to develop consensus on the core elements of current systems thinking in evaluation; and (3) share that information with a broad range of audiences. The purposes of this project are to clarify the boundaries of what constitutes good systems thinking in evaluation practice, and to improve the quality and fidelity of this discipline.


In 2015, the SETIG conducted its systems in evaluation survey, gathering information from more than 120 AEA members and colleagues regarding their familiarity and use of systems and complexity concepts, methods, and tools in their evaluation work. During the SETIG business meeting at the 2015 AEA conference, SETIG members debated the advantages and disadvantages of developing a definition or core set of principles of good systems in evaluation practice. The group agreed to move forward with the development of a consensus document or “manifesto” outlining the core elements or boundaries of good practice.


The Manifesto Action Team (MAT) is charged with designing and guiding a collaborative process working with interested advisors to draft a consensus document that will be vetted at the 2016 AEA conference. In the SETIG’s next newsletter, the MAT will say more about this project and the roles and responsibilities of the MAT working and advisory groups. For now, we invite anyone interested in this project to let us know of your interest.


Meg Hargreaves, Heather Britt, and Jan Noga

Past and Present SETIG Chairs


SETIG (Un)Conference Action Team

A Successful 2015 Event Sets the Stage for SETIG (Un)Conference 2016

By Bethany Laursen


2015 (Un)Conference


The SETIG organized the first-ever virtual unconference in the discipline of evaluation in October 2015, connecting 171 people worldwide and sparking a new form of professional development in our discipline. Our evaluation indicates that this landmark event enhanced learning, excitement, and recruitment for systems in evaluation:

  • 95% of participants would attend another SETIG virtual unconference
  • 79% would recommend a similar event to others
  • 80% of participants increased their knowledge of the topic
  • 75% found good value for the time spent.


Participants extolled,

“This was an excellent event. Thought the format was just perfect for fitting into my life, but also brought deep and meaningful conversation about an important topic.”

“I am so impressed with this experience! What a low cost, low resource way to meet with like-minded colleagues, and have deep discussions about relevant things! I am totally jazzed up to use what I learned in my work and to connect with people I’ve met in breakout chats.”



(Un)Conference facilitators also enjoyed their roles: 100% said the training provided was helpful and their roles and expectations were clear, and 91% would volunteer again if asked. Facilitators praised the organizing team, “Great modelling of risk-taking with grace.”


Kudos to our 2015 team!

  • Planning Team Leads: Bethany Laursen and Kylie Hutchinson
  • Advisors: Ginger Fitzhugh, Erin Watson, and Meg Hargreaves
  • Registration & Website: Jan Noga and Kylie Hutchinson
  • Unhangout Platform and Facilitator Coordination: Bethany Laursen
  • Promotion & Evaluation: Kylie Hutchinson
  • Proceedings: Jan Noga


The proceedings from the 2015 (Un)Conference are currently being compiled to be posted on the SETIG website.


Planning for (Un)Conference 2016!


2016 unconference posterSave the date! This year’s (Un)Conference will take place on Tuesday, June 21, 2016 from 1:00-3:00 pm ET.

Get involved! A fabulous team is shaping up to organize this year’s event. We’re looking for a few volunteers to join them. Are you interested in coordinating a session for our colleagues in the Eastern Hemisphere (Europe, Australia, etc.)? We are also looking for a few more volunteers to help with coordinating facilitators, evaluation, and proceedings. We welcome your ideas for topics or process for this year’s event. Please email systemsunconference@gmail.com, and watch the SETIG website for updates.


  • Planning Team Lead: Bethany Laursen (Western Hemisphere) and ______ (Eastern Hemisphere, open)
  • SETIG Liaison: Ginger Fitzhugh
  • Registration & Website: Jan Noga and Kylie Hutchinson
  • Unhangout Platform: Bethany Laursen
  • Promotion: Jenny Lawlor
  • Evaluation: ______ (open)
  • Proceedings: ______ (open)


Unhangout is great!

Are you interested in running an unconference or using the Unhangout platform? You can read more about what we learned about using Unhangout here.


SETIG Website and Social Media Action Team

Getting the Word Out on SETIG Activities and Resources

By Brandon Coffee-Borden


The SETIG Website and Social Media Action Team’s role is to maintain a web-based infrastructure to tell the TIG’s story, share the work of the TIG, provide resources and information to members, and support interaction and connections between members before, during, and between annual meetings. The SETIG’s webmaster, Jan Noga, of Pathfinder Evaluation and Consulting, developed and maintains the SETIG website (https://www.systemsinevaluation.com). Specifically, she

  • Manages the website’s communication functions in terms of news, accomplishments, and keeping members up to date on SETIG and AEA activities of relevance
  • Curates the website in terms of functionality, content, and technical features
  • Creates and maintains dedicated space for special projects (like the Unconference) to manage events or activities and share resources
  • Provides administrative and technical support to other Action Teams using the website for information sharing.


During the next several months, the team hopes to expand the functionality of the TIG’s website to provide greater opportunity for members to share information and resources and connect with each other. The team is also interested in exploring the use of social media to further develop our community of practice.


We are looking for volunteers! Please contact the SETIG Webmaster if you are interested and can:

  • Create content about SETIG activities and resources for website and/or social media
  • Work within the WordPress platform to maintain the website
  • Provide technical support for the website
  • Curate social media spaces such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter


Contact SETIG Webmaster, Jan Noga, at Jan.Noga@pathfinderevaluation.com. or go to the SETIG’s website and use the Contact Us page.



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