Systems Thinking

The use of Soft Systems Methodology in Evaluation

Rich pictures are a Soft Systems Methodology tool that offers a quick and efficient way to work with key stakeholders to better understand their ‘problematical situation’ (Checkland & Poulter, 2006). If a picture paints a thousand words: the use of rich pictures in evaluation is a demonstration presented by Judy Oakden at the American Evaluation Association International Conference in Denver in 2014. You can download the e-book companion from this demonstration workshop by clicking on the title above.

Judy has also presented on the use of rich pictures in evaluation in two webinars:

  • University of Colorado 2015 Webinar series: Practical Application of Systems to Conduct Evaluation: Cases and Examples:
  • American Evaluation Association:  Rich pictures: using an effective Soft Systems Methodology tool in evaluation (available to AES members).

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Tacking Wicked Problems: evaluative processes that go to the heart of the interrelationships, perspectives, and boundaries that influence the outcomes of complex innovations. 

Kate McKegg, Judy Oakden and Wendy Boyce presented this paper at the Aotearoa New Zealand Evaluation Association Conference in Hamilton in 2012.

Finding solutions for achieving sustainable agricultural systems is a highly complex problem, with a plurality of stakeholder perspectives and motivations and multiple objectives (economic, social, cultural and environmental). 

Because of this complexity, solutions and options must be developed through processes of iterative stakeholder engagement and learning, rather than pursuing a more traditional planned approach to agricultural policy. A process of facilitating innovative thinking amongst project and programme stakeholders can create the conditions that lead to innovation occurring. 

In this session, the presenters discussed their experience of undertaking an iterative staff engagement and stakeholder socialisation process within a regional council that focused on creating a better understanding of the inter-relationships, multiple perspectives and boundaries of the sustainable agriculture system, and set out to create:  

  • the conditions that might support the development of innovative solutions to achieve sustainable agriculture
  • the necessary monitoring and evaluative processes for tracking progress of the multiple work streams focused on achieving sustainable agriculture.
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