eStudy 094: Engaging the Whole System in Evidence Gathering, Advocacy and Action
eStudy 094: Engaging the Whole System in Evidence Gathering, Advocacy and Action


Kanti Gopal Kovvali


The eStudy will expose participants to a radically different evaluation process that is rapid, transformational and sustainable.

The Limitations of Current Approaches to Evaluation

Corporates, government agencies, private foundations, donors or non-profit organizations in general commission need assessments, formative research and program evaluations. They engage professional researchers to conduct the same. Using rigorous research methods and tools, these researchers collect data, analyze and come up with insights and recommendations. If one were to investigate the return on investments of research on transformation at the organizational as well as community levels, the results are far from satisfactory. The reasons for the same are as follows:

  1. The need for research has not from the people in the organization or from within the community. Hence, in general, there is no ownership for the research insights.
  2. The insights of researchers become knowledge for the commissioning organizations as well as the beneficiary employees or communities. Knowing is not equivalent to awareness. Mere knowledge does not create the positive restlessness to change.
  3. The change management work in organizations and communities begins only after the recommendations in the report are approved by the commissioning organization or agency. Until then it remains as a highly rigorous transactional activity. As the process from diagnostic to report presentation takes time, the problem that the research study is intended to address will continue to persist and affect people.
  4. Change management using the research findings and insights takes significant time and energies of people as it involves engaging stakeholders with differing point of view on the change issue. This increases the probability of doing what is convenient than what is right.

Introducing a New Approach to Evaluation

Though organizations and agencies are disappointed with the impact from research studies, by and large they continue to follow the conventional process without challenging the paradigms governing current evaluation research. We use an alternative approach that turns the conventional logic of commissioning and conducting and leveraging research upside down. This is called Whole Systems Approach. We apply it in corporates as well as social sector. This approach offers the following new paradigms

  1. Engage the entire organization or a critical mass of the organization simultaneously in evidence gathering, advocacy and action. This involves people of all levels, all departments and multiple geographies.  In some places, we engaged multiple stakeholders from different organizations together on issues that required macro responses.
  2. When people engage with raw performance data they gain insights. We bring in quantitative and qualitative data and help people to question their paradigms. As people representing different worldviews examine the data together, the analysis and insights are richer and the action recommendations practical and inclusive.
  3. Evaluation is located as a natural process of unlearning and relearning. It is positioned as a playful process. Through evaluation data generation and reflection a sense of positive restlessness to change is generated in employees. After that the people of the organization/ community create a shared vision and commit to a few behaviors that can cause emergent changes.

Learning Outcomes:

Change learner's paradigms about evaluation
Introduce new methodologies and tools
Transform orientation from doing good research to facilitating transformational research


Session I

New Paradigms in Research

- Research as a technical exercise to research as a transformational experience
- Researcher as an expert to researcher as an insights facilitator
- Seeking buy-in of people for research insights to co-creating Insights
- Slow institutional changes to Rapid transformational change

 Using examples, the session will introduce participating researchers and research enthusiasts to an additional lenses to research. There is no one truth. There is no ‘One idea fits all’. So participants can consider this new paradigm as an add-on to their repertoire of knowledge and skills.

Session II

How to engage the Whole System in Evidence Gathering, Advocacy and Action?

A case study would be sent beforehand to participants to read.

In the session we shall discuss the methodology and tools used in the process. The participants will also be introduced to alternative approaches to engaging the whole system, gathering evidence, advocacy and action planning.

Session III

Why most research studies end up in record rooms; When research insights are used, why change is temporary?

Using a quiz format, we shall introduce participants to the ‘Traps to Change’. They will also learn application of ‘Systems Thinking’ to bring to research design, insight building and habit change. 

Session IV

How to convert a transactional research design into a transformational research experience?

Using our work in Oxfam Bangladesh and Oxfam Cambodia on Transformational Gender Audits, we shall help participants to make their research designs transformational. We encourage participants to share their old research designs and explore how to make them transformational research experiences.

Primary Audience:

This eStudy is intended for evaluators with a couple years of experience.

Dates and Sessions:

October 23, 12:00-1:30 (EDT)
October 25, 12:00-1:30 (EDT)
November 6, 12:00-1:30 (EDT)
November 8, 12:00-1:30 (EDT)


Kanti Gopal Kovvali is an organizational unlearning specialist based in Mumbai, India. He founded Institution Builders HR Solutions, a solution consulting firmHe uses tranformational evaluation methods to help organizations to uncover their blind spots, These methods are based on systems thinking and engage the whole organization simultaneously in evaluation and managing change. He works with organizations in corporate and social sectors. He is an author of two books on leadership – Pit Stops for Peak Performance and Designing Leaders to Disrupt Markets. He is a visiting faculty to Tata Institute of Social Sciences and NMIMS in Mumbai and SP Jain Global Management in Sydney, Australia

Facilitation Experience:

Kanti’s engagement with public workshops in India and international conferences are as follows:

-Co-facilitated a full day workshop in the South Asia Evaluation Conclave - 2015 at Kathmandu, Nepal.
-Conducted 3 public workshops in Mumbai on Managing Change using Systems Thinking for trainers and OD functionaries across organizations.
-Co-facilitated a public workshop on LSIP in 2014 for 125 people with Anil Sachdev and Dr. Paul Tolchinsky
-Facilitated a Round Table session on 'Engaging the Whole System in Evidence Gathering, Advocacy and Action in CREA Annual Conference in Chicago in September 2017.
-Conducted a session in International Association for Facilitators conference at Chennai in 2017 on System Traps in Organizational Unlearning – How to survive like a cat with nine lives.


Student Member Price- $80
Member Price- $150
Student Non-Member Price- $110
Non-Member Price- $200