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University of Colorado Denver

School of Public Affairs

2015 Webinar Series

Practical Application of Systems to Conduct Evaluation: Cases and Examples

 For email updates plea​se click HERE​​​​

Register for the June 10th Webinar (Cultural Constraints in Systems): HERE

The application of “systems” in bringing about social change is rapidly gaining currency among those who fund and implement programs aimed at various aspects of social betterment. One constituency in this movement is the group of people who evaluate new programs. For them, “systems” (however defined) provides an intellectual perspective on understanding how a new program may work and what it will accomplish. As such, a “systems” approach affects evaluation design, data choices , methodology, data interpretation, and recommendations. In addition to serving as an intellectual framework, “systems” can be invoked as a methodology that can be added to the quiver of evaluation tools.


This webinar is based on the assumption that whether intellectual perspective or method, we will benefit from exposure to knowledge of how evaluators used systems in practice. We need to see cases where our colleagues tell us: 1) Here was my evaluation task. 2) I chose this aspect of “systems”. 3) I applied it in this way. 4) Here is what happened.


Of course “systems” is a large and ambiguous term that is applied to a very wide range of theory and action. We take no sides as to what is “in” and what is “out”. Our intent is to include as many examples of “systems” use in evaluation as possible. Each webinar will last half an hour – approximately 20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for questions. Sessions will be archived for those who are not able to attend in real time. Specific times and dates will be published toward the end of December. The purpose of this message is to solicit suggestions as to what topics to cover and to open the floor for nominations for presenters.


​​​​The topics, presenter, and schedule of each webinar is listed below.


Presenter Title Date Start Time Slides Recording
Michael Quinn Patton Emergence: Detection and interpretation in a Leadership Program January 14th 11a.m. CT Emergence webinar Jan 2015.pdfEmergence webinar Jan 2015.pdf
Jonny Morell

Blog: Surprises in Programs and their Evaluations
Cross Boundary Insights: Plans, Critical Incidents, and Outcomes​​ February 11th 11a.m. CT Morell slides.pdfMorell slides.pdf
Recorded Webinar
Jeff Wasbes Systems Dynamics: Computer​ Models to Anticipate and Plan for Surprise March 12th 11a.m. CT Wasbes - Modeling Systems-March 2015.pdfWasbes - Modeling Systems-March 2015.pdf Recorded Webinar LINK
Judy Oakden Soft Systems Methodology: The Use of Rich Pictures from Evaluation April 8th 11a.m. CT Oakland - Soft Systems Methodology-April 2015.pdfOakland - Soft Systems Methodology-April 2015.pdf ​Recorded Webinar LINK
Bethany Laursen Social Network Analysis: Use as a Systems tool When Evaluating Collaboration Capacity May 13th 11a.m. CT UCDenver webinar handout.pdfUCDenver webinar handout.pdf ​Recorded Webinar  LINK
Eve Pinsker Cultural Constraints in Systems: Applying Anthropological Methods in Evaluations June 10th 11a.m. CT

The series is hosted by the Center on Collaborative Governance in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver and coordinated by Dr. Jonathan (Jonny) Morell. If you want to receive information or registration, contact For substantive questions about content, and suggestions for additional presentations, contact Jonny at

Organizer Brief Biographies

Jonny MorellJonathan A. Morell PhD (Jonny) is an organizational psychologist with extensive experience in the theory and practice of program evaluation. His current hands-on evaluations involve safety programs in industry, evaluating R&D, programs to minimize distracted driving, applying best practices in on-the-ground settings in development, and evaluation capacity building. Based on his practical evaluation experience Jonny has made theoretical contributions to the field involving both evaluation methods for programs that exhibit unexpected behaviors, and the use of complex system behavior as evaluation frameworks and evaluation tools. His views are set out in his book: Evaluation in the Face of Uncertainty: Anticipating Surprise and Responding to the Inevitable. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Evaluation and Program Planning, and a recipient of AEA’s Paul F. Lazarsfeld Evaluation Theory Award. Details of his work can be found at his website, and his blog, His mantra is: Respect data, trust judgment.

Danielle VardaDanielle Varda (PhD) is an Associate Professor at the School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver with a secondary appointment in the Colorado School of Public Health, Department of Health Systems, Management, and Policy. She is Co-Director of the Nonprofit Concentration, Advisor to the Dual MPA-MPH Degree, and Director of the Research Program on Collaborative Governance. She specializes in collaborative governance and network leadership, focusing specifically in Public Health Systems and Services Research. Her research focus is on evaluating the network structure of interorganizational collaborations between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and the subsequent network effects of these recorded interactions. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she is the developer of a software tool (PARTNER, that uses Social Network Analysis to administer a survey and link to an analysis tool, to measure and monitor collaborative activity over time. Her research portfolio includes projects in the areas of maternal/child health, public health preparedness, nonprofit community networks, and systems evaluation. Her research has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the CO Department of Public Health and Environment, the CO Trust, the RAND Corporation, the Department of Health and Human Services (Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response), Veterans Administration, University of Kentucky School of Public Health, and the Department of Defense. Contact:
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