Blue Marble Evaluation Principle 4: Overarching Integration

Each week, leading up to the Blue Marble Evaluation book and website launch, we will be introducing a new principle of Blue Marble Evaluation. We will start with the four overarching principles. This week, Principle 4: Overarching Integration.

Principle: Integrate the Blue Marble principles in the design, engagement with, and evaluation of systems change and transformation initiative.

Basic Premise: Transformation requires multiple interventions and actions on many fronts undertaken by diverse but interconnected actors.

Implications: This fourth principle integrates the previous three, making it clear that this is not a pick and-choose menu of options but rather an integrated and comprehensive approach in which all the principles are important and, together, constitute a complete package. As we proceed in subsequent weeks to introduce and explain the 12 operating principles, the Integration principle will apply to those as well.

Photo Credit: Ellen Harasimowicz

Blue Marble Evaluation Principle 3: Transformative Engagement

Each week, leading up to the Blue Marble Evaluation book and website launch, we will be introducing a new principle of Blue Marble Evaluation. We will start with the four overarching principles. This week, Principle 3: Transformative Engagement.

Principle: Engage consistent with the magnitude, direction, and speed of transformations needed and envisioned.

Basic Premise: Global, anthropogenic problems are so severe, threatening the future sustainability of the planet and humanity, that major and rapid systems transformations are needed.


  • Base transformational interventions on a research-informed theory of transformation knitting together relevant theories of change.

  • Ensure that what is called transformation IS transformational.

  • Catalyze, connect, track, map, and evaluate networks and initiatives worldwide to generate critical mass tipping points toward global transformation.

  • Apply systems thinking and complexity theory to transformational engagements.

  • Transform evaluation to evaluate transformation.

Blue Marble Evaluation Principle 1: Global Thinking

Each week, leading up to the Blue Marble Evaluation book and website launch, we will be introducing a new principle of Blue Marble Evaluation. We will start with the four overarching principles. This week, Principle 1: Global Thinking.

Principle: Apply whole Earth, big picture thinking to all aspects of systems change.

Basic premise: Global problems like climate change, worldwide pollution, and global disparities require global interventions and, correspondingly, globally-oriented and world savvy evaluators.


  • Whatever is done, or evaluated, at all levels and for all types of interventions and initiatives, consider its global context and implications both within and beyond nation-state boundaries.

  • Think systemically. Conceptualize systems and evaluate systems changes, not just focus on projects and programs. Connect the local to the global, and the global to the local.

  • Think across silos by examining how issues, problems, and specific interventions may be interconnected. Unpack and bring fidelity to initiatives, organizations, and projects calling themselves “global”. Working on one issue in three countries is not global. What are the various ways in which the designation “global” has meaning?

  • Select appropriate methods for the situation and nature of the targeted systems changes.

  • Time being of the essence, be attentive to varying time horizons by integrating short-term, medium-term, and long-term sustainability considerations while acting with a sense of urgency given climate change and related global trends.

Join the Blue Marble Evaluation Network

The emerging Blue Marble Evaluation Network invites you to join us to learn more about how to evaluate large scale systems change and transformation and to build a community of practice so we can collectively contribute to its ongoing development. We have created a survey to help grow our network and invite you to complete and share it! Click here to access the survey.

By completing this survey, you will be joining this global network at its earliest stages, informed of events such as webinars and training opportunities and invited to participate in a wide range of activities. This invitation is being sent to over 400 leaders in the field of evaluation, large scale systems change and transformation. The name "Blue Marble" refers to the iconic image of the Earth as seen from space. Blue Marble Evaluation, then, treats the whole Earth as its focus, people and planet. This means evaluating the well-being of humanity and the health and sustainability of our the Earth globally, holistically, and systemically.

The practice is rooted in three basic principles: rigorously apply Blue Marble thinking to all aspects of global systems change design, implementation, and evaluation; embed understanding of global sustainability in all systems change initiatives and their evaluation; and, ensure that what is called transformational is transformational. The first principle addresses how to conceptualize evaluation at a global level. The second principle asserts that there are core competencies regarding the evaluation of large scale systems change and transformation. The third principle addresses the scope and scale of systems change needed for global sustainability and the role of evaluators in contributing to the transformations needed. These three principles encompass the thinking, knowing, and doing of Blue Marble Evaluation. Your participation in the global network will help to transform the field of evaluation and apply, further develop, and evolve these core principles in both theory and practice.

The development of Blue Marble Evaluation has benefited from the contributions, insights and experiences of many individuals and will require a far wider global network to better "see" together the challenges and opportunities in transforming evaluation to better contribute to the wellbeing of people and planet. Networks such as the SDG Transformations Forum and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food are serving as early adopters of this concept and have contributed significantly to the development of Blue Marble Evaluation. This global community of practice will serve to spotlight and help accelerate those efforts and contribute to wider uptake of this rapidly evolving theory and practice.

50th Anniversary of the Earthrise Shot

December 24 is the 50th anniversary of the first photo of Earthrise from the moon. Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts -- Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders -- held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. One of those photos showed Earthrise for the first time.

On this celebratory occasion, we are doubling down on the idea of Blue Marble Evaluation, an approach and framework for evaluating global systems change initiatives. Global challenges like climate change, global economic interdependence, and the global food system operate beyond national borders. Global systems change initiatives are intervening from the perspective of a complex, dynamic, and interconnected world system. Blue Marble evaluation is needed to assess the effectiveness of global systems change initiatives. If you are interested in becoming part of the Blue Marble Evaluation Network, please take a few moments to complete a brief survey to help us grow this important work.

Click here to take the Blue Marble Evaluation survey.

Reflections from IPDET 2016

Michael and I recently spent two days with twenty international development practitioners and evaluators at IPDET in Ottawa. They were pioneers in our first two-day workshop on evaluating global systems change, the result of our six-month grant from Faster Forward Fund in support of Blue Marble Evaluators. We started our journey with this video, documenting human migration over time, followed by an icebreaker to get to know one another and share our own migration stories. Participants located themselves in the room based on where they were born and had to introduce themselves without saying the name of the country. Here are some photos and a video of the exercise:


Blue Marble Evaluators describing the place where they were born without using country names. Camera is standing in North America, looking SE towards Australia. 

Blue Marble Evaluators describing the place where they were born without using country names. Camera is standing in North America, looking SE towards Australia. 

Blue Marble Evaluators where they current live or work.

Blue Marble Evaluators where they current live or work.

With this exercise, we were challenging the primacy of national borders, which we believe often get in the way of systems change. In the words of Albert Einstein, "you can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created." Next we watched a video of the changing borders of Europe to drive home the idea that national borders are artificial and the result of war, colonialism. We also watched the DNA Journey, a powerful video by Momondo, which shows what our DNA reveals about where we come from. All of this was intended to re-frame our way of thinking from a global perspective. We ended this introduction with the Blue Marble Shot, the first complete photograph of the Earth taken from space in 1972. Each participant also receive a blue marble as a reminder to take the blue marble perspective into their work.

After this introduction and re-framing, Michael walked through the evolution of evaluation into an international field, culminating with 2015 as the International Year of Evaluation. While the focus on building evaluation at the country-level is important, we believe that the next frontier for evaluation is for exaluators to apply a global perspective to their work and build our capacity to evaluation global systems change efforts. At its core, evaluating global systems change involves looking across both sector and national boundaries. 

Over the course of two days, we explored what this might look like through case examples and exercises mapping global issues, diving into systems thinking and complexity concepts, and working with a real-world example from the Global Centre for Pluralism.  Check out the gallery below for some photos of this work.

There are many challenges to evaluating global systems change, but this workshop reinforced our belief that this approach is lacking and necessary, especially in the field of international development. We hope to increase both demand for Blue Marble Evaluators and the supply/availability of them. On one hand, there are already many global initiatives operating, but few have evaluators at the table to inform decision-making and encourage the use of systems thinking and complexity concepts in their evaluation approach. On the other hand, there are even more development projects being undertaken without a global perspective despite the fact that the issues they are addressing are undeniably global. We believe Blue Marble Evaluators can play a role in helping to re-frame these projects and design evlauations that capture the complexity and system-wide implications of this important work. 

Ultimately, what came out of this workshop was the recognition that evaluating global systems change requires Blue Marble Evaluators who understand the historical forces that have shaped the current world system, are committed to developing their cultural competence in order to effectively collaborate and communicate with diverse populations, and bring a unique combination of empathy, humility and the capacity and willingness to speak truth to power in highly politically-charged situations. The first cohort of IPDET Blue Marble Evaluators are tackling a range of complex issues from land rights in the Mekong delta to migration in West Africa, access to anti-retroviral drugs to human security. We hope this workshops laid the foundation for these pioneers to bring a blue marble perspective to their work. 

By Charmagne Campbell-Patton

MQP's Top Ten List of the Future of Evaluation

One June 8th, I gave the closing keynote address at the Canadian Evaluation Society's annual conference in Saint John's, Newfoundland, where I listed my top ten trends for the future of evaluation. They've since gotten some traction on twitter, but a few are out of order, so I thought I'd share my official list here for all to see: 

10. Integration of mixed methods

9. Increasing importance of data visualization

8. Increased us of social media for all aspects of evaluation

7. Learning from failure

6. Getting serious about unanticipated consequences and investigating unknown unknowns

5. Evaluation as the alpha trans-discipline (Scriven)

4. Integrated, holistic multi-disciplinary complexity-informed systems thinking

3. Real-time evaluation for a fast-paced world

2. Speaking truth to power

1. Global systems change evaluation

Click here to download the slides of my full keynote, "The Future of Evaluation: Beyond here there be dragons, or are those just icebergs?" 

Back to back book reviews, oh my!

A quick blog today to let you know that Michael and I have back to back book reviews in the latest edition of the upcoming edition of the American Journal of Evaluation. You can view them online now or wait for the printed edition to come out next month. We've also posted links to the reviews on our website for easy access, just visit our resources page. Michael reviewed a memoir by Ernie House called Cherry Street Alley, while I dove into an edited volume on Peace Education Evaluation. Let us know what you think!