Evaluation is the process of helping people build, share, test, and evolve mental models using credible evidence. It requires co-creation, as mental models serve as the collective basis for taking action.
We work with clients to collaboratively articulate our best approximation of the current reality, grounded in a shared understanding around vision and purpose, what we know about the systems involved from multiple perspectives, and the ideas and interventions to be evaluated. This bounding exercise is how we build and share mental models that distinguish between the “North Star” vision that will not change and the means-ends hypothesis that is subject to change.
Evaluation that works involves action and change – testing and evolving those mental models in reality elicits feedback and credible evidence. This is iterative, emergent learning. It’s effortful and often messy, but it reminds us that authentic learning should result in noticeable change.
Systems Learning™ is a systematic and unifying approach for building a body of evidence that links data with testimony from credible witnesses. It’s another way we approach storytelling. We use a simple model of systems thinking to facilitate slower thinking for us and our clients.
Systems Learning™ elevates a diversity of perspectives, prioritizing those closest to the work and those most affected by the work. It’s a structured approach optimized for equity and learning and can serve as a universal, actionable mission for equitable evaluation. Our unifying mission is:
- Actionable – It tells us what to do;
- Clear and simple – It’s unambiguous and doable;
- Repeatable – But iterative and emergent; and
- Universal – Everyone can do it together.
We use Systems Learning™ to tell more authentic, compelling, and impactful stories. True storytelling requires an environment that allows people to come together, exchange information, and test out new, more purposeful ways of being together. We need a structure that actually can reflect the values or belief systems of those people participating, which we call the Systems Learning Studio™.