How the I Ching or Book of Changes can Inform Western Notions of Theory of Change

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Craig Russon
Karen Russon


Background: This article is the third part of a trilogy. The Eastern paradigm article (Russon, 2008) dealt with ontological issues (the nature of reality). The insight evaluation article (Russon & Russon, 2009) dealt with epistemological issues (how we can know reality). Purpose: This article deals with a methodological issue—specifically it explores how ancient Chinese philosophy might influence the way in which modern day evaluators think about theories of change.  Setting: Not applicable. Subjects: Not applicable. Research Design: Not applicable. Data Collection and Analysis: The paper is the result of a desk review that compared and contrasted modern theory of change literature with the writings contained in the I Ching or Book of Changes.Findings: The authors believe that the theories of change expressed in the systems diagrams of the I Ching would be considered to be conducive to recurrent change that occurs due to cycles in the natural world. They further believe that the change which harnesses the power of naturally occurring cycles offers the best hope for long-term sustainability. This is because such change takes advantage of an intuitive cooperation with the natural order. Conclusions: The authors believe that using the diagrams of the I Ching as a theory of change template offers modern day evaluators a number of advantages. The advantage of greater sustainability has already mentioned. The authors believe that organic theories of change also encourage evaluators to think about the contribution from many factors instead of attribution of a few factors. Keywords: program evaluation, theory of change, I Ching, Book of Changes, Tao, yin, yang, systems diagrams


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Russon, C., & Russon, K. (2009). How the I Ching or Book of Changes can Inform Western Notions of Theory of Change. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, 6(13), 193–199. Retrieved from
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