Assessing Impact in Dynamic and Complex Environments: Systemic Action Research and Participatory Systemic Inquiry
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This CDI Practice Paper is about the uses of Systemic Action Research (SAR) and Participatory Systemic Inquiry (PSI) for impact assessment (Burns 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013; Wadsworth 2001, 2010). SAR is an action research methodology which embeds design, planning, action and evaluation into a single process. It is an iterative learning process which supports real-time assessment across social systems. SAR can be embedded within programmes or layered into programmes later on in their development (Burns 2007). PSI is a shorter process, which allows a system to be mapped as a baseline against which changes in the dynamics of the system can be assessed (Burns 2012). PSI can underpin an action research process or it can be carried out as a process in its own right. SAR typically takes place over a period of 18 months to three years. A PSI mapping and analysis might take place over a 2–12-week period. SAR has been used in a number of national and global INGO programmes. It has also been used in large-scale evaluations such as that of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Communities First programme.