Comparing and Contrasting a Program versus System Approach to Evaluation: The Example of a Cardiac Care System
Originally Published In
Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation
This paper focuses on the application of systems thinking concepts to evaluate systems. The terms systems and systems thinking concepts are first defined. The use of systems thinking concepts in program and system evaluation are then highlighted. It is noted that while there are methods available to assist evaluation practitioners in applying systems thinking concepts to program evaluation, there is a need for similar guidance in applying systems thinking concepts to evaluating systems. System Evaluation Theory (SET) is then reviewed as one evaluation theory designed to apply systems thinking concepts to evaluating systems. A case illustration is presented to help teach practitioners how to apply SET’s three steps. The discussion focuses on comparing the differences between evaluation questions answered by applying systems thinking concepts versus those using program logic models.