What's its purpose in systems grantmaking?
What is it?
A participatory process that combines design, planning, action and evaluation into an action learning cycle that is repeated every few months to enable real-time learning. The iterative phases include the following:
- Analyze the situation.
- Generate new theories of change.
- Plan action.
- Take action.
- Evaluate impact.
When is it useful?
- When working on issues, fields, or movements that need to engage multiple stakeholders with different perspectives on what systems change is needed
- In formative assessment and learning processes
What are tips and cautions for systems grantmakers and the social sector?
- SAR does not assess impact in relationship to baseline measures of expected outcomes set forth at the outset of a project. Rather, it looks at decisions, actions and impacts that emerge during the process.
- The process may incorporate and utilize many of the other resources in this guide.
- The facilitators may be the only people in the process connected across the entire system. Thus, facilitators must be aware of their own power in creating the framework for learning and shaping the inquiry, and connecting the data. Consequently, it is key to be intentional about who facilitates the process. Engaging local champions to help guide the process is one effective way of distributing leadership.
Assessing Impact in Dynamic and Complex Environments: Systemic Action Research and Participatory Systemic Inquiry
By Danny Burns
Centre for Development Impact, 2014
Above image reproduced with permission from the Centre for Development Impact.
Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating Sustainable Change at Scale
By Danny Burns and S. Worsley
Practical Action Press, 2015
Systemic Action Research: Changing System Dynamics to Support Sustainable Change
By Danny Burns
Action Research, 2014
Leader, Participation Research Cluster, Institute of Development Studies