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Authored by: Hans Posthumus, Rachel Shah, Alexandra Miehlbradt, Adam Kessler

Few topics inspire as much confusion and debate as systemic change. What is it? How do you measure it? Does it even matter?

Lots of programmes struggle to know how to assess system changes credibly, rigorous, and in a way that is both contextualised and applies good value-for-money principles. Systems are complex and dynamic, so changes in them can seem overwhelming to capture, quantify, or attribute.

However, assessing changes in systems might be more doable than many people think. This paper presents guidance on a back-to-basics approach to assessing system change.

The guidance has been developed in collaboration with a wide range of representatives from across the field, from programmes, donor and consultants, across a variety of sectors. In November 2019, thirty results measurement specialists, managers and consultants got together in Bangkok. The insights from this workshop, from conversations with mature programmes on their emerging practices, and from an expert review panel of well-respected leaders in the field have all fed into the development of a pragmatic approach to assessing system changes that builds on what programmes are actually doing and learning from practice.

The approach this guidance introduces can be:

  • applied by programmes using a variety of different systemic change frameworks
  • applied across a variety of sectors
  • implemented with internal resources using familiar methods for information gathering

In this publication, a brief overview of the approach is given, and applied to an agricultural example loosely based on the work of PRISMA in Indonesia. More technical guidance on how to apply the approach, including doing so in a way that meets the DCED measurement standard, is forthcoming.

We welcome feedback and enquiries from any programmes interested in learning more to apply the approach in their own settings.


You can watch a webinar and follow up Q&A videos on the paper here.

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