Kylie Hutchinson on It Came Upon a Systems Lens

I’m Kylie Hutchinson, independent evaluator and owner of Community Solutions Planning & Evaluation ( and regular Tweeter @EvaluationMaven.  Every year I adapt a Christmas carol to share with my colleagues and clients. This will be my third year sharing it with AEA365.

Rad Resource:  This year the use of systems in evaluation really resonated with the work I was doing.  Here’s my take on the traditional, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.

It Came Upon A Systems LensSystems Christmas Tree

It came from using a systems lens
Such insights so glorious – behold!
This program in its entirety,
Is really a part of a whole.
So often when we evaluate,
We think only outputs, outcomes,
And fail to see the complexity,
The system from which it comes.


Consider the interactions,
Within and between system parts,
They help or hinder the outcomes,
Ignoring them isn’t smart.
Look at the interrelationships,
Of policies, patterns, and norms,
These interact with the program,
And impact how it performs.


Three interconnected elements,
Can help show you where to begin,
They’re Boundaries and Relationships,
And Perspectives within.
A deeper look at these elements,
Will open up more leverage points,
If you are looking for system change
These actions won’t disappoint.


But how to choose what to include?
What’s evaluated or not?
Your framing is quite critical
Requiring some thought.
Be conscious of what is left out,
Think of the three factors above,
And how they impact your outcomes,
The influences thereof.


Why do we bother with systems?
When logic models are so nice?
Well life is not really linear,
They clearly can’t suffice.
We’re living in a complex world,
Simple answers rarely exist,
It’s only through complexity,
That we can learn what we missed.

Hot Tip:  Evaluation doesn’t have to be serious all the time, and ditties like this can often help educate or simply make a point.

Rad Resource:  You can find Christmas carols from previous years on my website: (

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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