ECDAN

Theme 6_1_

Systems Expert
Julia Coffman, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Evaluation Innovation

ECD Expert
Mark Tomlinson, Co-Director of the Institute for Life Course Health Research, Stellenbosch University

Moderator
Shekufeh Zonji, Global Technical Lead, ECDAN

Session Description

Social change actors increasingly are recognizing that many social problems are enmeshed in complex systems, and changing the systems that keep those problems stuck in place is the only meaningful way forward. However, those involved in these efforts, including evaluators, rarely articulate the mental models being held about how change happens in systems, even as our decisions collectively influence the strategy and how progress is understood and measured.

We need to be aware of our mental models and why we are using them. If they conflict, we need to understand why and whose model should drive the change process. This awareness enables us to align our strategy, learning, and evaluation approaches with those who are influencing systemic change and those who are affected by it.

Two mental models are commonly used with systems change efforts. This session will explore these two mental models, help participants to uncover their own, and discuss how we can better align our mental models in both strategy and evaluative practices. It will focus particular attention on the systems emergence model, which is less understood and underutilized in philanthropy and evaluation. The session will end with concrete examples of what it looks like to align both mental models with our strategy, learning, and evaluation practices.

Learning Objectives:
Participants will develop a better understanding of the following:

  • Two mental models for systems change that are commonly used.
  • The implications of the mental models for strategy, evaluation, and learning.
  • Concrete examples of what it looks like to align mental models with strategy and evaluation approaches

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Speaker Bios

Julia Coffman, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Evaluation Innovation

Julia Coffman (she/her) is founder and Executive Director of the Center for Evaluation Innovation. For 30 years she has worked with philanthropy on improving their approaches to strategy, evaluation, and learning. Julia has particular expertise in evaluating advocacy, policy, and systems change efforts, emphasizing learning that feeds back into strategy. For 15 years prior to founding CEI, she led evaluation efforts at the Harvard Family Research Project, a research and evaluation organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Mark Tomlinson, Co-Director of the Institute for Life Course Health Research, Stellenbosch University

Professor Mark Tomlinson is the Co-Director of the Institute for Life Course Health Research Stellenbosch University. He is also Professor of Maternal and Child Health in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queens University, Belfast, UK. His scholarly work is primarily interested in how to improve early childhood development, child and adolescent mental health, maternal mental health, and developing life course approaches to improving health. He was elected as a member of the Academy of Science in South Africa in 2017. He has published over 372 papers in peer-reviewed journals, edited four books and published numerous chapters.

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Have any questions or ideas for the series, contact [email protected].

For more resources on systems thinking, please visit the Systems Thinking for ECD webpage.