Thursday, June 09, 2011

The theory behind Sensemaker

Yesterday I posted about Sensemaker. A discussion on the SAMEA listserve ensued. Kevin Kelly  posted this:
 The software (sense maker) is founded on a conceptual framework grounded in the work of Cognitive Edge (David Snowden). The software is very innovative, but not something that one can simply upload and start using. One really needs to grasp the conceptual background first. It should also be noted that the undergirding conceptual framework  (Cynefin) is not specifically oriented to evaluation practice, and is developed more as a set of organisational and information management  practices. I am hoping to run a one-day workshop at the SAMEA conference which looks at the use of complexity and systems concepts, and which will outline the Cynefin framework and explore its relevance and value for M&E.

I think I'll sign up for Kevin's course. I have been reading a little bit about Complexity and evaultion lately.
In case someone else is interested in reading up about specifically cynefin and more general complexity concepts I share some resource (with descriptions from publisher's websites)

  1. Bob Williams and Hummelbrunner (Authors of the book Systems Concepts in Action: A practitioner’s Toolkit ) presented a work session at the November 2010 AEA conference where he introduced some systems tools as it relates to the evaluator’s practice
Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner's Toolkit explores the application of systems ideas to investigate, evaluate, and intervene in complex and messy situations. The text serves as a field guide, with each chapter representing a method for describing and analyzing; learning about; or changing and managing a challenge or set of problems. The book is the first to cover in detail such a wide range of methods from so many different parts of the systems field. The book's Introduction gives an overview of systems thinking, its origins, and its major subfields. In addition, the introductory text to each of the book's three parts provides background information on the selected methods. Systems Concepts in Action may serve as a workbook, offering a selection of tools that readers can use immediately. The approaches presented can also be investigated more profoundly, using the recommended readings provided. While these methods are not intended to serve as "recipes," they do serve as a menu of options from which to choose. Readers are invited to combine these instruments in a creative manner in order to assemble a mix that is appropriate for their own strategic needs.

  1. Another good reference about Systems concepts I found was Johnny Morrell’s  Book – Evaluation in the Face of Uncertainty. 
Unexpected events during an evaluation all too often send evaluators into crisis mode. This insightful book provides a systematic framework for diagnosing, anticipating, accommodating, and reining in costs of evaluation surprises. The result is evaluation that is better from a methodological point of view, and more responsive to stakeholders. Jonathan A. Morell identifies the types of surprises that arise at different stages of a program's life cycle and that may affect different aspects of the evaluation, from stakeholder relationships to data quality, methodology, funding, deadlines, information use, and program outcomes. His analysis draws on 18 concise cases from well-known researchers in a variety of evaluation settings. Morell offers guidelines for responding effectively to surprises and for determining the risks and benefits of potential solutions.
His description about the book is here 
  1. And then Patton’s latest text (Developmental Evaluation – Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation)  also touches on complexity issues and Cynefin  .
Developmental evaluation (DE) offers a powerful approach to monitoring and supporting social innovations by working in partnership with program decision makers. In this book, eminent authority Michael Quinn Patton shows how to conduct evaluations within a DE framework. Patton draws on insights about complex dynamic systems, uncertainty, nonlinearity, and emergence. He illustrates how DE can be used for a range of purposes: ongoing program development, adapting effective principles of practice to local contexts, generating innovations and taking them to scale, and facilitating rapid response in crisis situations. Students and practicing evaluators will appreciate the book's extensive case examples and stories, cartoons, clear writing style, "closer look" sidebars, and summary tables. Provided is essential guidance for making evaluations useful, practical, and credible in support of social change.

  1. Rogers also published a nice article in 2008 in the Journal Evaluation about this 
 This article proposes ways to use programme theory for evaluating aspects of programmes that are complicated or complex. It argues that there are useful distinctions to be drawn between aspects that are complicated and those that are complex, and provides examples of programme theory evaluations that have usefully represented and address both of these. While complexity has been defined in varied ways in previous discussions of evaluation theory and practice, this article draws on Glouberman and Zimmerman's conceptualization of the differences between what is complicated (multiple components) and what is complex (emergent). Complicated programme theory may be used to represent interventions with multiple components, multiple agencies, multiple simultaneous causal strands and/or multiple alternative causal strands. Complex programme theory may be used to represent recursive causality (with reinforcing loops), disproportionate relationships (where at critical levels, a small change can make a big difference — a `tipping point') and emergent outcomes. 

For more resources, try AEA 365

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