Systems- and Complexity-informed Evaluation Week: Two Resources to Build Evaluation Capacity by KaYing Vang, Marah Moore, and Claire Nicklen

Claire Nicklen
Marah Moore
KaYing Vang

Greetings! We are KaYing Vang, Marah Moore, and Claire Nicklen – members of the IMEP team (a.k.a. the Integrated Monitoring, Evaluation, & Planning team) at the Collaborative Crop Research Program. We are also co-authors of the recent article, Applying a systems and complexity lens to building evaluation capacity: Learning from a multicountry donor’s experience.

It can often be a challenge for project implementers interested in utilization-focused and participatory evaluation to apply systems thinking and complexity science. Through collaborative learning and experimentation over the years, we developed two resources to introduce and strengthen these approaches in our evaluation efforts. These resources were written for and in consultation with our grantee partners; however, the concepts can be applied to a range of different contexts beyond agricultural research systems. They are suitable for both emerging evaluators who are just beginning to explore concepts such as a theory of change as well as advanced evaluators seeking to bring systems thinking to their evaluation practice.

Rad Resources

  • Theory of Change Guidance. This resource introduces the process of creating a theory of change and advances upon ideas originally introduced in the IMEP handbook. Additionally, we have included a Theory of Change Assessment Tool in the appendix. This tool is a rubric that can be used to help teams assess the strength of their theory of change.

Lesson Learned

Always keep adapting. The IMEP handbook has undergone many changes throughout the years as our thinking and experience with evaluation capacity building has shifted to increasingly integrate with systems thinking and complexity science. Additionally, the addition of new ideas in the academic literature has helped us refine our evaluation approach.


The American Evaluation Association is hosting Systems- and Complexity-informed Evaluation Week. The contributions to AEA365 this week are all related to this theme. 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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