Delivery completed for Leadership & Evaluation for Transformational Change offering

Transformation is everywhere, but how do we exercise leadership whilst thinking about and measuring impact? After the past few years in a pandemic with uncertainty and volatility the norm, how do we harness this transformation to ensure it benefits those most marginalised and vulnerable? How do we know what impact looks like when our communities are in chaos? Why should leadership, evaluation and questions of racial equity be integrated? These questions and many others were explored in CFI’s first offering of 2022 – Leadership and Evaluation for Transformational Change.

64 participants
from diverse sectors including business, philanthropy, community and service sector, research and government. The program was designed as a collaborative enquiry between Michael Quinn Patton, Mark Cabaj and CFI’s Liz Skelton and Mark Yettica-Paulson.

The attendees were encouraged to be “active participants” in expanding seven propositions on the radical shifts required in how we think about and integrate leadership and evaluation into our systems and professional practice. The panel devised and presented the following 7 propositions to catalyse the conversation:

  1. Transformation requires building, yielding and expanding power
  2. Transformation requires multiple actions by multiple actors: there are no silver bullets
  3. There is a lag time between transformative-oriented actions and transformative change
  4. The process of transformation is emergent, full of trial and error, and always adaptive
  5. There is an incredible plurality of worldviews and perspectives in transformation-oriented efforts
  6. Resistance and polarisation are inevitable
  7. External transformation requires inner transformation

Applying principles, practice and examples of evaluation, systems leadership, and Deep Collaboration, the program explored what it takes to create conditions within systems and act from our roles when readiness for transformation is low. These propositions developed by the collaboration will be developed further with the contributions, thoughts and insights from the program and made available into a resource as a contribution to the field.


Here is what some participants gained from the program:

“Great blend of hearing from The Greats in the sector, and discussions with colleagues (who are still) grappling with the themes.”

“Amazing collective knowledge – both speakers and participants.”

“Loving the different perspectives to each of the propositions of the different panellists. A great design.”

“There is no one way to do this work and we are all trying to work it out, including the panel members. It is inspiring to see and hear (and scary…).


Words of wisdom from the facilitators collected from the program delivery:

“Evaluation is typically a comparative exercise between where things are now versus where those working for change want things to be, so it’s not a matter of reconciling but comparing and using the gap to motivate and guide action.  Where are the indicators now?  Where do we want them to be?  How do we close the gap?  Multiple indicators (including more radical ones) allow more dialogue about where to prioritise action in closing the actual/ideal gap.” – Michael Quinn Patton

We can not maintain the rage to change structures if we do not regularly foster intimacy with the felt desperation for change through exercising proximity. We can maintain the rage if we deliberately position our smaller disturbances as part of the bigger disruptions for systems transformation. We can maintain the rage when we see ourselves as generational custodians of change and every day is part of our dedication to transformation. The political cycles feel limiting in comparison.” – Mark Yettica-Paulson

It’s impossible to be aware of everything going on across the systems we are trying to change: there are too many actors, too many actions, too many connections. We can and should know what is going on around you, within your zone of influence and aim to be mutually reinforcing in that context. Eric Berlow’s classic systems-thinking-informed video on Simplifying Complexity offers a powerful visual image of this approach to change-making. This requires change-makers to zoom out to ask the questions: (1) Who is doing what and why? (2) What else needs to be done? before zooming in to answer the question (3) How can we add unique value given what we’ve learned in response to questions 1 and 2?” – Mark Cabaj

“Conditions need to be in place to manage expectations and competing purposes of multiple actors. Grounding the collaboration in its shared aspiration or purpose is key and often rushed or skipped past. Shared purpose is often framed at the beginning then assumed to be fixed. It very rarely is, as collaborations progress, divergence in vision/purpose usually emerges so always needs to be revisited. For tools and resources on stretch collaboration and working across multiple expectations, see the step by step here and also Stretch collaboration by Adam Kahane.” – Liz Skelton



Article collated by Poroma Kanya, Communications and Events Coordinator, Collaboration for Impact.

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