EPE TIG Week: Michael Quinn Patton on Blue Marble Evaluation

My name is Michael Quinn Patton. I am an independent evaluation consultant based in Minnesota but working worldwide.  As part of Earth Week, a worldwide perspective on global systems change seems especially appropriate.

I have taught in the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) every year since its inception in 2000.  I conducted the meta-evaluation of the Evaluation of the Paris Declaration on International Development Aid. I joined with evaluators around the world last year in celebrating 2015 as the International Year of Evaluation devoted to enhancing national evaluation capacity in developing countries.  In these and other international evaluation experiences I have become acutely aware that we need global solutions to global problems – and we need evaluators with competence to undertake global systems change initiatives.   Earth Week is a good time to reiterate the need for globally oriented, world savvy evaluators.

Lesson Learned: Albert Einstein famously said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Nation-state boundaries are the result of war, imperialism, colonialism, enslavement, exploitation, genocide, oppression, greed, politics, and religious persecution. Environmental degradation is but one of the results.  Global problems transcend national boundaries. Examples include:

  • Climate change
  • Economic turbulence
  • Refugees
  • Virulent infectious diseases
  • Dying oceans
  • Global cyber-terrorism
  • International drug cartels
  • Human trafficking
  • Weapons trafficking
  • Poverty and inequality

Hop tip: Global problems need global initiatives evaluated by globally knowledgeable evaluators. To evaluate global systems change means applying core systems concepts globally: attention to perspectives, boundaries, and interconnections.

Lesson learned: Take a global perspective. You can’t see the Earth as a whole unless you get at least 20,000 miles away. On December 7, 1972 the first photograph was taken of Planet Earth: the Blue Marble Shot.


Lesson learned:  Evaluate Beyond Boundaries and Borders.  Earth week and the Blue Marble Shot remind us to Think Globally, Act Globally, and Evaluate Globally because we are truly interdependent.

Rad resource: Blue Marble Evaluation webinars (no cost): March 16, April 20, and May 18.

Rad resource: Global Systems Change Evaluation course, June 23-24.

Rad resource: Look at real time Blue Marble Shots from Space for Earth Week. Japan’s Himawari-8 Satellite Captures Whole Earth’s Images Every 10 Minutes. Takes 144 photographs of the entire planet a day.

Rad resource:  Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Image via

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Environmental Program Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Environmental Program Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EPE TIG 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.