Handling Complexity is the third in the series of lunchtime dialogues on the Dynamics of Evaluation, presented by Eliat Aram, Dione Hills and Kerstin Junge.
A growing desire for ‘evidence based policy making’ is intensifying the search for new, and better, solutions to the challenge of how to evaluate complex programmes and policies and to understand the differences between complex and complicated programmes, policies and other processes. Taking a complexity approach to evaluation has the potential of changing the discourse in the field and applying fresh method using a lens that highlights paradox, self-organisation and emergence.
Eliat Aram, therefore, began the session with a quick overview of a complex adaptive system and its characteristics. Kerstin Junge and Dione Hills illustrate how these characteristics can challenge the evaluators – and those wishing to commission or use the results of evaluations – of complex programmes. They also outline some of the approaches used in recent years to address these challenges, and some of the strengths and limitations of these. Eliat draws insights from her years of experience as consultant and leadership trainer, to suggest ways in which an understanding of complex adaptive systems might help organisations, and individuals, navigate the uncertainty and paradoxes they face when working with these conditions.
There was then an experiential opportunity for those attending to explore the meaning of these ideas in day to day practice, and to reflect on their implications for us when we are either in the role of evaluators, or as a ‘recipient’ of evaluation activities.
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Dr Eliat Aram CEO, TIHR
Eliat Aram is a Chartered Scientist Psychologist (BPS), a UKCP registered Gestalt Psychotherapist and OD consultant. Prior to joining the Tavistock Institute, Eliat worked with Prof Ralph Stacey, at the University of Hertfordshire’s Business School, Complexity & Management Centre, set up to study and understand organisational dynamics and behaviour using the lens of complexity and chaos theories. More recently, she is core faculty of The Metanoia Institute’s Masters programme in Organisational Development from a Systemic Gestalt and Complexity Perspective, accredited by Middlesex University.
Dr Dione Hills Principal Consultant Researcher, TIHR
Dione has worked as an evaluator at the Tavistock Institute, since 1986 (following 7 years as senior researcher at the Department of Health). As part of a team developing innovative evaluation approaches to complex interventions (led Elliot Stern) she has contributed to the development of evaluation theory and practice in a wide range of different sectors, increasingly taking a lead in the areas of transport and the environment and the provision of evaluation training to policy makers and government analysts. As a member of the UK Evaluation Society Council she is part of the group developing a new (Voluntary Peer Review) professional development process for evaluators.
Dr Kerstin Junge: Principal Consultant Researcher, TIHR
Kerstin has 15 years’ experience in comparative social research and evaluation, focusing on European, national and local programmes in the areas of employment, information society, education and skills and social inclusion. Kerstin’s particular interest is in evaluation theory and methods as well as the organisational use of evaluations. With Dione, she has written evaluation guidelines for the Department for Transport, the Department for Communities and Local Government as well as the Economic and Social Research Council. In implementing research and evaluation assignments she draws on systems thinking, ideas of structure and agency as well as group and (inter) organisational dynamics. She holds a PhD in European Politics and a Postgraduate Certificate in Organisational Consulting and Change, is a member of the UK and European Evaluation Societies as well as the Alliance for Useful Evidence.