Gregory Bateson’s logical categories of learning and communication present a lens for examining the relationships between evaluation, learning and sustainability that offers an alternative to narrow linear approaches to innovation in the design and implementation of interventions that can address complex human problems. Learning supports transformative change that is necessary for the preservation of relationships at more encompassing levels of context. Contrarily, adhering to the forms and practices required by institutionalized bureaucracy can restrict needed learning and innovation. As an exercise in autoethnography (Adams et al., 2017), the author reflects on her experience as an anthropologically-trained evaluator who has applied systems approaches to the evaluation of public health community-level interventions.
Keywords: evaluation, systems thinking, learning