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Natalia Kosheleva on Measuring The Extent of Program Intervention into Targeted Systems

Hi! My name is Natalia Kosheleva. I’m a consultant at Process Consulting Company, Moscow, Russia. Here I would like to share my ideas about measuring the extent of program intervention into targeted systems.

I base my work on two systems thinking principles. The Hierarchy principle says that any system is an element of some larger system, and any element is a system itself. The Multiple Description principle says that no single model can give an exhaustive description of a system, so several models should be developed.

I start with describing a program as a system that includes a source/sources of intervention and a target object/objects. For example, there is an NGO (source) working with schools (objects) to promote student community service.

Then I go through several levels of hierarchy to get a detailed description of targeted system(s), always getting to the level of individual “functions”. For example, a school has administrators, teachers and students, and students are organized into classes. At this stage it is helpful to do a lot of sketches.

Hot Tip: The effect of intervention depends upon what type of elements it affects and what share of elements of a certain type gets affected within a target system. So it is useful to track that. For example, a program might have trained 20 8th grade students from two schools, 10 from each. But one school has just one class of 18 people, so the intervention affected 100% of target classes and 56% of students. Another school has three classes of 30 students each, and out of 10 trained students 2 were from one class and 8 from another. So the extent of program intervention here is 67% of classes and 7, 27, and 0% of students in these classes.

Hot Tip: The effect of intervention also depends upon how deeply a program influences individuals. Many social programs try to create change through training. For them it may be useful to use a qualitative scale, like the one I used for a program training students on community service (CS): “Received training in CS”, “Received training and practiced CS”, etc. The scale, of course, should be program-specific.

A qualitative scale can be combined with quantitative indicators above. For example:

System/ Type of Element Total number of elements Received training 

Number/ Share

Received training and practiced doing 

Number/ Share

School 1/ Class 1/ Students 20 10/ 56% 1/ 5%
School 2/ Class 1/ Students 30 2/ 7% 2/ 7%
School 1/ Class 2/ Students 30 8/ 26% 4/ 13%

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