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Transformation Fidelity Principle

Ensure that what is called transformation constitutes transformation.


Transformational change by its very definition must be major, must be big, and therefore must be observable and/or measurable. The end of apartheid: observable. The fall of the Berlin wall: observable Significant reduction in new cases of HIV and AIDS: measurable. Significantly reduced smoking in a population: measurable. Huge increase in opioid deaths: measurable. Major reduction in soil erosion: observable and measurable. Transformed system reactions to sexual harassment or racial discrimination: documentable. People glued to their designs checking for messages and news: Observable. The challenge is not evaluating transformation, not when it actually happens. True transformations are hard to miss and pretty easy to document. The challenge is bringing about transformation. That’s hard. Very hard. But if it has happened, it can be observed.


  • Not all programming is transformational in intent, not all Blue Marble initiatives have a transformation vision, so not all Blue Marble evaluations are transformational in focus. Most interventions aspire to make a significant difference on some problem, but few have the capacity to aspire to transformational impact.
  • Where an initiative does have a transformational vision and aspiration, the concept of transformation means it is taking on major structural and systems change. The results expected should be transformational. If you need a significance test to tell whether or not transformation change has happened, it hasn’t. Transformation can be judged by interocular significance. 
  • Distinguish genuine transformations from hype. Many claims of transformation, like “best practice” claims, can be more hype than sybstance. 
  • The Transformation Fidelity Principle epitomizes evaluation’s reality-testing function. As the term transformation has grown in popularity and attained widespread use, the first level of evaluation is bringing some degree of rigor to the very notion of transformation. Begin by simply applying a face validity criterion, meaning, on the face of it, just by examining the logic and merits of the proposition being made, is what is being envisioned transformational? In what sense? 

Corollary: Transformational Engagement Fidelity Principle

Evaluate whether and how what is called transformational engagement constitutes a trajectory toward transformation.