2016 Systems (Un)Conference FAQ

The Systems in Evaluation (Un)Conference organizing committee is pleased to announce their second annual Systems in Evaluation (Un)Conference!  This learning opportunity is a direct response to the expressed desire of TIG members for more networked learning outside of the AEA conference.

Due to popular demand, this year’s event will be international and held twice to accommodate two time zones:

  • The Americas/Caribbean/Europe/Africa – Tuesday, June 21, 2016 from 1-3 pm US Eastern Daylight Time
  • Australia/New Zealand/Asia/Pacific Thursday, June 23, 2016 from 9 – 11 am Australia Eastern Standard Time

What is an (Un)Conference?

An unconference is a loosely structured meeting that emphasizes the informal, emergent exchange of ideas between participants rather than following a conventionally structured program of speakers and presenters. Join us online to learn and share with your colleagues in an informal virtual environment (MIT’s UnHangout). Build your knowledge and skills in systems evaluation without ever leaving the office!

How does an (Un)Conference Work?

Participants log on at the indicated time and following a short welcome and orientation, either join a specific discussion topic in a virtual breakout room or create their own discussion topic and breakout group. Each breakout room is limited to 10 people total and include a facilitator to enhance discussion and engage learning.  If participants are not able to enter the breakout room of their choice they are encouraged to try another room or start a new breakout room topic.  There will be two rotations of breakout groups during the two hour time slot.  

How do I participate?

  1. Register using the link below.  Registration is free but space will be limited.
  2. Obtain a Google account and install the Google hangout plug-in so you can use the (Un)Conference software.
  3. Ensure you have a reliable Internet connection and microphone.  A webcam is also strongly suggested to improve your experience.
  4. Read the short Participant Guide we’ve developed and watch the short videos on how the (Un)Conference software works.
  5. Attend one of the short pre-conference technical orientation sessions we’ve scheduled for June 14th, 10:30 am US EDT (June 15, 12:30 am AEST) or June 14th, 6:30 pm US EDT (June 15, 8:30 am AEST) using the (Un)Conference link.  Note that an unconference is not like a typical webinar where you can log-in at the last minute then sit and listen!  Last year several participants experienced technical issues.  Don’t wait until the day of the (Un)Conference to find out you’re not able to participate!

How do I get to the (Un)Hangout?

You can find the link to the online hangout in Point 5 in the section above. But, to make it even easier, here it is:


What are the Discussion Topics? 

Below is a tentative list of topics that will be available for the Americas session:

  • Basics of Systems in Evaluation: Getting Oriented
  • Designing a Systems-based Evaluation: Challenges and Strategies
  • Designing Stakeholder Participation in a Systems Evaluation: Real-life Examples
  • Using a Developmental Evaluation Approach in Systems Evaluation: Real-life Examples
  • Using a Complex Adaptive Systems Approach in Systems Evaluation: Real-life Examples
  • Support for a Systems Approach in Systems Evaluation: Strategies for Promoting Buy-in
  • Distinguishing Systems Evaluation: Where are the Boundaries?
  • Designing Useful Systems Visualizations: Tools & Strategies
  • Assisting the Design of Complex Programs: Real-life Examples
  • Identifying System Leverage Points: Helpful Approaches
  • Similarities & Differences between Design vs. Systems Thinking: Applied to Evaluation
  • Importing Tools from the Design World into Systems Evaluation: Think Big!
  • When and How to Work with Designers on a Systems Evaluation: Questions & Tips
  • The Link between Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE) and Systems-Oriented Evaluation (SOE)

Topics for the Downunder session include:

Indigenous Perspectives On Systems Thinking:

  • Māori cultural ways of working as a relational organising system in evaluation.
  • The cultural fit of systems thinking in indigenous evaluation contexts.
  • Exploring specific cultural examples and their adaption within systems informed evaluations such as DE.
  • A systemic approach to evaluating Whānau Ora in a Pasifika context.
  • Facilitating in evaluation with a systems lens

Systems Thinking and Evaluation Approaches

  • Using a developmental evaluation approach in systems evaluation: real-life examples
  • How might we think systemically when tackling a value for money in evaluation
  • Systems thinking and complexity methods and tools we might use in evaluation

How Systems Thinking Might Inform our Approach to Evaluation:

  • Basics of systems in evaluation: Getting oriented
  • A systems approach to causality
  • Using different world views to discern system patterns
  • Understanding the foundations of systems thinking – the importance of metaphors and dialectic learning
  • Emergence and attractors in complex systems, how these concepts inform our methods in evaluation

What if I’m Interested in a Topic not on this List? 

The unconference format is unique in that it fosters the exchange of ideas between participants rather than following a conventionally structured program of speakers and presenters.  If you have a topic that you don’t see on the list above, we encourage you to form your own breakout group at the appropriate time.  All participants will receive instructions on how to do this during the Welcome and Orientation at the beginning of each day, or you can watch this short how-to video.

How Do I Register?

Register button

Register for the Americas session.



Systems (Un)conference

Register for the Downunder session.




Questions? Problems? Need more information? Contact the (Un)Conference organizers by clicking the button below.

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