2017 in review – your favorite LfS content
Another year has passed, and this provides a good opportunity to reflect on what content resonated most with visitors on the Learning for Sustainability (LfS) site in 2017. So – based on the site statistics* – here are the most visited pages in terms of topic areas, blog posts and downloads of hosted content.
The Learning for Sustainability (LfS) website operates as an international clearinghouse for on-line resources around collaboration, social learning and adaptation. As you can see from the navigation bar above it provides pages of annotated links pointing to targeted resources on a range of relevant and interlinked topics. During 2017 the site averaged more than 900 visits* each day. Managing collaborations, complex problems, Theory of Change, systems thinking, and reflective practice featured heavily in the most requested content.
Most visited resource pages
While the LfS home page remained the preferred choice of entry for most, the three resource pages that were most visited were:
- Theory of change (ToC). This page provides links to guides for using ToC – a methodological approach for planning, participation, and evaluation. It shows how its use can help orient diverse program stakeholders to work together and plan for outcomes by envisaging a ‘big picture’ view of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context.
- Systems thinking. This page points to sites providing toolkits and tools to support systems thinking. It encourages practitioners to understand and analyse the contexts within which they operate, as a precursor to designing programs/policies that can adapt as conditions on the ground change.
- Selecting evaluation questions and types. This page provides guides to help program managers to develop appropriate evaluation questions that are driven by funders, project participants and other key stakeholders. Further links highlight how different evaluation types (and/or methods) are distinguished by the nature of the questions they attempt to answer.
Most read LfS posts
Some of our most popular and engaging content in 2017 was, not surprisingly, blog posts that provide introductory material that grounds key topic areas. Check out these posts that were most popular with readers in the last year.
- Complicated or complex – knowing the difference is important. This post reminds us that understanding the difference between complex and complicated systems is becoming important for many aspects of management and policy. Each system is better managed with different leadership, tools and approaches. This post outlines the differences, and provides an introduction to management tools and leadership tasks best suited for complexity.
- After action reviews – and how they can be linked with ToCs to support strategic thinking. This post introduces After Action Reviews (AARs), and indicates how theories of change (ToC) and AARs can be used in tandem to create both the space and guidance for strategic learning, and subsequent adaptation and innovation.
- Using a theory of change (ToC) to better understand your program. This post provides a brief introduction to the language and concepts of Theory of Change or program theory. It also looks at how the use of these outcomes-based approaches helps those involved with program learning, planning and evaluation.
Popular downloaded papers and reports
While the site primarily operates as a clearinghouse to on-line material hosted on sites all over the world, it does host a range of papers and reports. The three most downloaded media were as follows:
- How Decision Support Systems can benefit from a Theory of Change approach. This 2017 research paper begins by describing a ToC and how it can be used in conjunction with DSS development. We then illustrate how to apply a ToC approach using a pest (rabbit) management example in Australia. We end with a discussion of potential benefits and challenges from using the approach.
- Stakeholder analysis. This 2010 book chapter reminds us that a stakeholder analysis is just one (albeit usually the first) step in building the relationships needed for the success of a participatory project or policy. It covers steps in conducting such an analysis, and then outlines some best practice guidelines.
- Building resilience in rural communities. This 2008 report aims to provide a toolkit outlining ideas and information that could be included in new or existing social programs. It introduces and expands on 11 resilience concepts found to be pivotal in enhancing individual and community resilience.
* Using AW stats
An independent systems scientist, action research practitioner and evaluator, with 30 years of experience in sustainable development and natural resource management. He is particularly interested in the development of planning, monitoring and evaluation tools that are outcome focused, and contribute towards efforts that foster social learning, sustainable development and adaptive management.