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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Tackling Wicked Problems: evaluative processes that go to the heart of the interrelationships, perspectives, and boundaries to 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.

Achieving sustainability in agricultural systems is a complex problem. To address this, there is a need to navigate multiple stakeholders’ perspectives and motivations. There are also multiple objectives (economic, social, cultural and environmental) to consider.

To address complex problems, stakeholder engagement is vital. Solutions need to develop iteratively. Facilitators can create the conditions which lead to innovation. Traditional decision-making approaches used in agricultural policy are not so useful.

The presenters shared their experience of undertaking a staff engagement and stakeholder socialisation process. This occurred within a Regional Council.  It focused on better understanding the inter-relationships, perspectives and boundaries related to sustainable agriculture. The engagement set out to create:

  • the right conditions to support innovative solutions
  • the monitoring and evaluation to track progress of the multiple work streams.