Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2009, Brisbane, Australia, Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences

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Amanda Gregory


In this paper a systems approach to evaluation is proposed. It is argued that many evaluations fail to achieve a comprehensive assessment because they are essentially reductionist in nature; only focussing on limited aspects of an organisation and/or they emphasise the performance of the parts over the whole.
The argument is advanced in this paper that a systems-based approach to evaluation must put the study of the whole before that of the parts. It should stimulate an organisation’s ability to learn by reflecting on the efficiency and efficacy of the interactions between its parts and the effectiveness and ethicality with which it engages with other systems in its environment. A systems approach will use a variety of different systems models to ensure that the evaluation is comprehensive, knowing that any one will be limited in terms of what it enables us to see. It is argued that at least four types of systems model are relevant. The first two can be called ‘mechanistic’ and ‘organic’ and they concentrate on building the internal capacity of an organisation. The second pair, ‘stakeholder’ and ‘ethical’ models are focussed more upon aspects of the organisation’s external relationships.
Having established the four generic categories of evaluation, a summary is given of some ‘emerging’ forms of evaluation that may be drawn in to help us better achieve our aim of creating a truly systemic form of evaluation.
Moving closer to the ideal of being truly systemic demands more than simply adding new and emerging forms of evaluation to our took-kit. A commitment to holism requires that we take a more critical look at how we might implement systemic evaluation in practice and critical systems thinking offers some guidelines for managing methodological pluralism in practice.

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