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This is the AES Blog, where we regularly post articles by the Australasian evaluation community on the subjects that matter to us. If you have an idea, please contact us at . Blog guidelines can be found here.

 

Systems Thinking in the Sunshine State

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by AES QLD Committee Members

Evaluators in the AES network are increasingly being challenged to apply evaluative thinking, methods and tools to innovative, emergent, place-based or otherwise complex initiatives. These initiatives often seek to achieve improvements not only in individuals and institutions, but in the systems that hold 'wicked' societal problems in place. The desired systems-level outcomes are often difficult to define, predict and measure and can change and evolve as the implementing organisations learn which strategies are most effective in reaching their goal.

In response, a recent issue of the AES QLD regional committee's newsletter focussed on resources, methods and mindsets to support members to in evaluating  complex systems change initiatives. Here are the take-outs.

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Realist evaluation in practice: an interview with Brad Astbury

by Eunice Sotelo & Victoria Pilbeam

Many evaluators are familiar with realist evaluation, and have come across the realist question “what works for whom, in what circumstances and how?” The book Doing Realist Research (2018) offers a deep dive into key concepts, with insights and examples from specialists in the field.

We caught up with Brad Astbury from ARTD Consultants about his book chapter. Before diving in, we quickly toured his industrial chic coworking office on Melbourne’s Collins Street – brick walls, lounges and endless fresh coffee. As we sipped on our fruit water, he began his story with a language lesson.

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The smallest Russian Doll… a practitioner’s take on developmental evaluation

By Zazie Tolmer

Late last year an opportunity came up for a Clear Horizon consultant to work full time as an embedded evaluator in a Collective Impact initiative. I jumped at the opportunity and have been part of the backbone team for the last eight months.

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How to avoid the evaluation fads and remain in fashion with Brad Astbury

by Jade Maloney, Jo Farmer and Eunice Sotelo

With so many authors and approaches to evaluation, knowing what to pay attention to can be hard. Evaluation, just like the catwalk, is subject to the whims of the day. How do you know what’s a passing fad and what will remain in fashion?

At the AES Victoria regional seminar in November, Brad Astbury suggested the following 10 books will stand the test of time.

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The animal farm and a postal worker: A fable about evaluators and evaluation champions

by Alison Rogers

Once upon a time there was a diverse range of animals working hard to run a productive farm. Among the committed and dedicated team there were five dogs. In addition to retrieving, herding, and sniffing for wild produce, their role was to guard the premises. The dogs were friendly to the milkmaid and grocer, but for some reason, they growled and barked at the postal worker.

One day, when the postal worker was due to deliver mail, four of the dogs were distracted by a commotion on the other side of the farm. No one was watching the mailbox except for the dog known as Champ. He stayed by the gate, as he was meant to do. He observed the postal worker walk closer, and when she made no attempt to enter the premises, he stayed quietly vigilant and let her get on with her job. Champ even started wagging his tail.

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