CDI Practice Paper
Danny Burns
Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, September 2014

This CDI Practice Paper is about the uses of Systemic Action Research (SAR) and Participatory Systemic Inquiry (PSI) for impact assessment.

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.

Related resources: View this publication
Partner(s): Institute of Development Studies