Complex Systems

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Session Title: Complex Systems Evaluation and Dynamic Logic Modeling: Lessons From the Field
Panel Session 105 to be held in Panzacola F-4 on Wednesday, Nov 11, 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM
Sponsored by the Systems in Evaluation TIG and the Human Services Evaluation TIG
Bob Williams,  Independent Consultant,
Margaret Hargreaves,  Mathematica Policy Research Inc,
Bob Williams,  Independent Consultant,
Abstract: Understanding the differences between self-organizing and organized system dynamics can be a key to useful planning and evaluation of initiatives in complex settings. The presenters in this session are exploring ways to visually and conceptually integrate attention to self-organizing system dynamics along side attention to the planned, organized system dynamics typically represented in logic models. The initiatives (funded all or in part by the federal Children's Bureau) are an evidence-based home visitation program, parental involvement in early childhood programs, and a quality improvement center for early childhood maltreatment prevention. The panelists illustrate how they framed their thinking, gathered information, and visually represented findings about both organized and self-organizing system dynamics. They particularly address the nature of logic models in these situations. Their focus is on helping users of their work understand options for influencing the key dynamics of their situation to move in a desired direction.
Planning Infrastructure Changes in Complex Systems
Melissa Brodowski,  United States Department of Health and Human Services,
Melissa Brodowski is managing a number of complex initiatives around the topic of child maltreatment prevention at the federal level. In her role as Federal Project Officer, she has started to encourage grantees to apply new knowledge from the complexity sciences to their work. She addresses how she approaches this task and describes the challenges of bringing a complex systems orientation to the work at the federal level. She discusses the challenges and opportunities with applying complexity to the planning and implementation of a new initiative to support evidence-based home visiting programs with 17 grantees across 15 states and for the national cross-site evaluation. She also describes the benefits that the agency and grantees find in the use of logic models to describe their work while considering how to identify and display the patterns within complex systems that are not expressed in the typical logic model.
The Place of Logic Models When Investigating Self-organizing System Dynamics
Jacqueline Counts,  University of Kansas,
Governmental programs and systems focused on early childhood emphasize parental involvement. Jackie Counts addresses how she and her colleagues identified and encouraged authentic involvement in agency work through a developmental evaluation. They conducted an agency survey of over 90 agencies to identify systems' components from which they developed a logic model. They conducted focus groups with over 100 parents to understand how parents define involvement and access supports. They used the data from the focus groups to understand self-organizing patterns and how those patterns are congruent and incongruent with the logic model communicating the self-organizing patterns of parental involvement along side the agency logic model to help agencies adjust how their work supports the self-organizing approaches of parents
Balancing Attention to Organized and Self-Organizing System Dynamics
Beverly Parsons,  InSites,
Beverly Parsons is the lead external evaluator for the National Quality Improvement Center (QIC) on Early Childhood. The QIC seeks to improve the well-being of children zero to five years old, and their families, who are at risk of abuse and neglect. The QIC fosters collaborative research and demonstration projects across multiple service systems. The presentation addresses how the evaluation is seeking to understand and visualize self-organizing patterns in this complex array of systems along with the multiple organized system dynamics that are rooted in the hierarchical organizations. She addresses where logic modeling is used to depict organized system dynamics while showing the relationship to self-organizing dynamics. She discusses the challenges of identifying, describing, and using dynamic logic modeling in this evaluation.

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