AZENet Week: Considering Panarchy: Affiliates and Life Cycles by Allison Titcomb

Greetings! My name is Allison Titcomb and I work at the United Way of Tucson & Southern Arizona in Community Development and Collective Impact, I teach as adjunct faculty at The University of Arizona, and I own my own consulting business, ALTA Consulting, LLC. I have been a member of AEA for almost 20 years, co-chair the Local Affiliate Collaborative, and have served on the board of the Arizona Evaluation Network for over 17 years.

The new year reminds me of cycles—of time, of work, of life. I use this season to reflect on and renew my commitments and values. A useful concept that grounds me in the normality of ups and downs, growth and diminishment is called panarchy. “Panarchy is a conceptual framework to account for the dual, and seemingly contradictory, characteristics of all complex systems – stability and change.” I’ve included a simple hand drawn rendering of how I think about this cyclical model in relation to my work and ideas over time.Panarchy hand drawn cyclical model

As you reflect on your journey, or the journey of your organization, you might pose these questions:

  • Where do you find new energy and ideas to keep you going?
  • What might be some new opportunities to connect or partner with others?
  • Who could you invite to share the learning journey?

Lesson Learned:

My own interest and journey in Evaluation has been fueled and renewed by my membership and active participation in AEA and AZENET.

Hot Tips:

  • An infusion of new board members can bring energy and exciting new ideas. Their enthusiasm can be contagious.
  • Intentionally seeking and inviting diverse membership and perspectives creates many opportunities for innovative approaches to our work as evaluators and in AEA affiliates.

Rad Resources:

  • Milwaukee Evaluation! offers inspiring clarity around their pipeline goals.
  • If you’re not already a member of a local affiliate of AEA, you can get connected via the AEA website list.
  • The Tamarack Institute has a wonderful two-page tool that describes “The Phases of Community Change Eco-Cycle Mapping Tool.” They also describe transitional traps that can stall the flow such as scarcity, charisma, rigidity, and chronic disaster. Useful for evaluators and facilitators to help contextualize change processes.
  • If you’d like to read more about Panarchy, try the book, Panarchy: Understanding Transformation in Human and Natural Systems (2002). These cycles also comes to mind when I hear evaluators talk about their local affiliates. Some have been trying to get going, but have lacked enough buy in and commitment to get started. Some have been around for years and seem to have stagnated. Some have grown suddenly and feel overwhelmed with the larger scale. All of these tie back to this cycle of growth and renewal.
  • Ready to connect with an Arizona evaluators? Check out the Arizona Evaluation Network’s 2018 From Learning to Practice: Using Evaluation to Address Social Equity conference taking place this April in Tucson, AZ.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arizona Evaluation Network (AZENet) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our AZENet members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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