Principles for Systems Thinking


The final draft of Principles for Effective Use of Systems Thinking in Evaluation Practice is now available for review and use. Click on the button below to download the principles in PDF. We encourage your feedback on this document. You can do this in two ways:

  • Take the survey to share your experiences in using the principles in your practice: click on link following or on button below (User Survey)
  • Use the handy contact form here on our website (click here) to let us know what you think.


The Start of an Idea


The SETIG launched an open-ended pilot survey asking TIG members to describe what the notion of systems and systems thinking meant to them and how they used systems approaches in evaluation.

FALL 2015

Responses from the pilot were used to develop a structured survey to further explore the ways that SETIG members were using systems approaches for evaluation.

Findings from both surveys were presented during the SETIG business meeting in Chicago.


Turning Data into Principles: Rough Stage


Work continued on refining what we had learned and incorporating feedback from members following Chicago. A draft set of principles was developed.

FALL 2016

The draft principles were presented during the annual meeting in Atlanta. The most important feedback to pertained to the length and complexity of the draft principles.


A Framework and A Document


Meg Hargreaves, former TIG chair, reworked the draft principles using Michael Quinn Patton’s GUIDE Framework. The principles were shaped around four fundamental concepts informing systems thinking: interrelationships, perspectives, boundaries, and dynamics.


The SETIG leadership team convened four teams of volunteers – each taking one of the fundamental concepts. The teams learned the principles of the GUIDE Framework. Using the framework, each team worked independently to develop a set of principles for their focus area.

FALL 2017

Feedback was solicited during the SETIG business meeting in Washington DC.

The group as a whole also worked to contribute to a preamble to explain why principles were needed and how they are intended to be applied.


Principles for Effective Use of Systems Thinking in Evaluation Practice: Almost There!


The SETIG leadership team began the work of assembling the work of the teams into a complete document.


The review draft was edited and formatted. It underwent review by the SETIG leadership team prior to being released. During summer, the work teams reviewed the draft and provided additional feedback.

FALL 2018

The final draft was shared at the 2018 AEA Annual Meeting in Cleveland during the SETIG business meeting to be held Thursday, November 1st, from 7:30-9:00 pm in CC-15.

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