Why Blue Marble EvaluatION?

Global challenges like climate change, massive cross-border movement of displaced persons, virulent super-viruses and contagious diseases that threaten world health, dying oceans, global terrorism, global food insecurity, global economic interdependence, and multinational capitalism, to name but a few examples, operate beyond national borders and regional or sectoral domains.  Technology knows no national or agency boundaries. Moreover, these global systems and challenges are interconnected and dynamic.  Global innovators and global systems change initiatives are beginning to think and act from the perspective of a complex, dynamic, and interconnected world system.

Evaluators need special perspectives and competences to engage and evaluate these global change efforts, to monitor, improve, help develop, and ultimately judge the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, and sustainability of these global change efforts.  

This involves much more than monitoring performance indicators and sustainable development goals. It means bringing the full arsenal of evaluation thinking, tools, methods, and processes to bear at a global level -- and creating new approaches appropriate to the challenges of global systems evaluation.

At Michael's IPDET presentation, he floated the idea of Blue Marble Evaluators with an adaptation of the song, We are the world. The enthusiastic response confirmed his assessment of the need for this work and developed a proposal to move it forward.

What is "Blue Marble?" 

You can't see the Earth as a globe unless you get at least twenty thousand miles away from it.  Only 24 humans ever went that far into outer space -- the three-person crews of the nine Apollo missions that traveled to the moon between 1968 and 1972. But only the 3 in the last Apollo mission saw a full Earth and took the first complete photo of Earth.  On December 7, 1972, the first photograph was taken of the whole round Earth ever snapped by a human being (in contrast to computer directed). That photo became known as The Blue Marble Shot.

The Blue Marble perspective means thinking globally, holistically, and systemically; in essence, thinking of the world and its peoples as the evaluand. This means thinking beyond a world of national-states. 


Blue Marble Evaluation is a global initiative focused on training the next generation of evaluators to Think Globally, Act Globally and Evaluate Globally. It was launched by Utilization-Focused Evaluation in the Fall of 2015 with a generous pilot grant from the Faster Forward Fund in partnership with World Savvy and continues with support from the McKnight Foundation.

The idea for Blue Marble Evaluation came as UFE Founder and Director, Michael Quinn Patton, prepared for a luncheon presentation on the International Year of Evaluation at the International Program on Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) in mid-2015. As he was reflecting on the major developments in the field of evaluation over the past fifteen years, Michael was struck by the observation that the fundamental unit of analysis for international evaluation development has been the nation-state. Evaluation as a field has developed effective and useful approaches and tools for monitoring and evaluating traditional projects, programs, national policies and plans, and international agency sector initiatives. But global problems require global solutions and global systems evaluation.