I’m Michael Quinn Patton (MQP), founder and director of Utilization-Focused Evaluation and author of Blue Marble Evaluation.
Blue Marble refers to the iconic image of the Earth from space without borders or boundaries, a whole Earth perspective. We humans are using our planet’s resources, and polluting and warming it, in ways that are unsustainable. Many people, organizations, and networks are working to ensure the future is more sustainable and equitable. Blue Marble evaluators enter the fray by helping design such efforts, provide ongoing feedback for adaptation and enhanced impact, and examine the long-term effectiveness of such interventions and initiatives. Incorporating the Blue Marble perspective means looking beyond nation-state boundaries and across sector and issue silos to connect the global and local, connect the human and ecological, and connect evaluative thinking and methods with those trying to bring about systems transformations.
Blue Marble Evaluation integrates design, implementation, and evaluation. Evaluators bring their knowledge and expertise to bear in the design of resilient, sustainability-oriented, and equity-committed interventions and initiatives. When an intervention and, correspondingly, an evaluation fail to incorporate an ecological sustainability perspective, both are engaging from a closed system mindset, disconnected from larger patterns and realities—like turning a crank that isn’t connected to anything. It is essential for planners, implementers, and evaluators at the beginning of their work together to routinely analyze the sustainability and equity issues presented by the formulation of the intervention and the implications for evaluation. Blue Marble evaluation premises and principles provide a framework for that initial review, ongoing development and adaptation, and long-term evaluation of systems transformation contributions and impacts. But what does a Blue Marble Evaluation actually look like? Here’s an example.
Food Systems Transformation
On September 23, the United Nations hosted a global Food Systems Summit. As part of building momentum for the Summit more than 900 Independent Dialogues took place around the world engaging more than 100,000 people. Our Blue Marble Evaluation team coded the Dialogue reports to capture and communicate perspectives and insights from the Dialogues. The major themes that emerged from those Dialogues have now been published in a Synthesis Report (link listed below). Dialogue participants provided guidance on what is needed and envisioned to transform food systems. Transformation means major, significant, deep, and broad changes beyond piecemeal reforms, incremental change, and narrowly focused projects and programs. Participants spotlighted the importance of ensuring sustainability and strengthening resilience. Sustainability entails humanity and nature thriving together, with resilience as the capacity to regenerate and adapt. Resilience supports sustainability.
Dialogues also called for making equity a priority and treating everyone as a stakeholder in food systems transformation. Valuing diversity and engaging inclusively are essential to achieve equity. Dialogue participants called for all involved to act with urgency and to learn and adapt through ongoing evaluation. Participants recognized that climate change and the pandemic are having major effects on food and agriculture. Therefore, it is essential to build global transformation momentum across systems because the potential for food systems transformation is intrinsically tied to transformation of climate and health systems.
· Blue Marble Evaluation workshop as part of the upcoming AEA virtual conference, October 29. https://www.evaluationconference.org/Programs/Workshops
· Synthesis of Food Systems Transformation Dialogues by the Blue Marble Network Team https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/unfss_independent_dialogue_synthesis_report_3_0.pdf
· Learn more about Blue Marble Evaluation and join the Network: https://bluemarbleeval.org/
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