Our sensemaking work

Sensemaking is a key part of Pragmatica’s process in undertaking evaluation and consulting assignments. Pragmatica uses tools such as rich pictures, pattern spotting and strategic foresight to make sense in uncertain and unpredictable settings.

Rich pictures: The use of Soft Systems Methodology in evaluation

Rich pictures are a Soft Systems Methodology tool that offers a quick and efficient way to work with key stakeholders to better understand their ‘problematical situation’ (Checkland & Poulter, 2006). In a demonstration session called If a picture paints a thousand words: the use of rich pictures in evaluation, Judy Oakden offered session participants a chance to try using rich pictures for themselves. 

This session was run at the American Evaluation Association International Conference in Denver.

Two webinars on the use of rich pictures in evaluation.
Judy produced two follow up webinars on how to use rich pictures in evaluation
  • University of Colorado 2015 Webinar series: Practical Application of Systems to Conduct Evaluation: Cases and Examples:
  • Soft Systems Methodology: The Use of Rich Pictures from Evaluation  Visit the webinar here
  • American Evaluation Association:  Rich pictures: using an effective Soft Systems Methodology tool in evaluation (available to AES members).

Pattern spotting as a sensemaking tool in evaluation

Sensemaking is essential in evaluation design. It promotes deeper stakeholder engagement and can lead to better insights and more evaluation use. This paper discussed how to design a collective sensemaking process as part of M&E practice. It considered ways to help navigate values and needs between different stakeholders. We argued sensemaking can make evaluation more useful. The presentation addressed five questions:

  • What is ‘collective sensemaking’ in M&E?
  • What forms can sensemaking take?
  • What are the conditions for successful collective sensemaking?
  • What role can sensemaking play to responsibly navigate the values, needs and understandings of stakeholders?
  • Why is collective sensemaking not more prevalent? How can we strengthen this part of M&E practice?

Notable innovation has occurred for qualitative data collection methods and for analytical procedures in quantitative reasoning in M&E. However, innovations in the analytical processes for mixed methods in M&E appear to be lagging behind. This paper suggests ways forward.

Irene Guijt and Judy Oakden presented this paper at the European Evaluation Society Conference.

Strategic foresight as a tool for envisioning evaluation in the future

I wasn’t expecting THAT! Imagining future scenarios – and the implications for evaluation

Change is on us – rapid, multi-dimensional change. In evaluation, we often hear people say “what a surprise – I wasn’t expecting that”. Buried in the tyranny of the day-to-day, we have few opportunities to consider the bigger, longer-term picture.

At the AEA conference in Minneapolis we ran a demonstration session where participants explored four possible futures, based in 2051, that were highly relevant to evaluation practice. Drawing from a six-month futuring exercise, this demonstration session provided insights and a new way of framing the future of evaluation. We thought about a wide range of issues – from climate change to population pressures and changing migration patterns, growing food and water insecurity, and the impact of accelerating technology that is all on the way.

During this exercise, we considered the future of evaluation. We shared possible scenarios for evaluation in 2051, considered evaluation practice in these possible futures and encouraged participants to explore options in more depth for themselves.

Judy Oakden along with Human Systems Dynamics founder, Glenda Eoyang, and fellow Associates,  Royce Holladay, Wendy Morris, Stewart Mennin and Claudette Webster, ran the session.