Inclusive systemic evaluation for gender equality, environments and marginalized voices (ISE4GEMs): A new approach for the SDG era

This UN Women Independent Evaluation Service guide on the Inclusive Systemic Evaluation for Gender equality, Environments and Marginalized voices (ISE4GEMs) approach brings together innovative systemic evaluation practice with intersectional analysis.

It promotes transdisciplinary evaluation methods, rethinks systemic evaluation methodology, and introduces the Gender equality, Environments and Marginalized voices (GEMs) framework. This guide provides an introduction to the new approach and includes both a summary of the key theoretical concepts and guidance and tools for applying it in practice.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Anne Stephens, Ellen D. Lewis, and Shravanti Reddy.

Authors and their affiliation

Anne Stephens (Director, Ethos of Engagement Consulting and Lecturer, James Cook University), Ellen D. Lewis (Ethos of Engagement Consulting), and Shravanti Reddy (Evaluation Specialist, UN Women)

Key features

With the advent of the Agenda 2030: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) there is a call for new approaches and methodologies to understand and evaluate combinations of global challenges, their integrated nature, and their complexities. The Independent Evaluation Office of UN Women, along with Australian and American researchers, have responded to this challenge by developing a Guidance for Evaluators for the SDG era. Introducing the Inclusive Systemic Evaluation (ISE) approach and the Gender equality, Environments, and Marginalised Voices (GEMs) Framework.

Shortened to the ‘ISE4GEMs’ this guidance brings together trans-disciplinary evaluation methods through a systemic evaluation approach. The guide is written in two parts. Part A contains key concepts from systems thinking including boundary analysis, emergence, and the difference between systemic and systematic thinking. The GEMs framework for complex intersectional analysis is explained and each GEMs dimension is described and key elements for practice.

Part B provides practical steps to walk through the planning, conduct and analysis phases of an evaluation. The process is participatory and contributes to capacity development, learning and empowerment of participants and stakeholders. An accompanying set of tools and extensive resources are provided in the Guide’s annex section.

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

The ISE4GEMs had been in development since March 2016. During this time, the authors utilised the emerging guide in two evaluation contexts. Evaluators in New York, led by ISE4GEMs co-author Shravanti Reddy, used the approach to evaluate the UN Women’s contribution to women’s political participation and leadership (2011 – 2015) making six conclusions and six recommendations to further strengthen UN Women’s global contribution in this thematic area.  Concurrently, co-authors Anne Stephens and Ellen Lewis travelled to Central America to complete an impact evaluation of an NGO working with Indigenous artisan collectives.  This project revealed new applications for the ISE4GEMs as it was applied to an organizational assessment of the NGO.

Both projects contributed towards further refinement of the ISE4GEMs approach and capacity development resources. The authors deliver one to two day training workshops at conferences and on request.

Feedback from early adoption of the ISE4GEMs and training sessions are being collated in a continuous process of improvement to the approach. 

Why would you recommend it to other people?

This approach offers an alternative way of thinking and planning about evaluation practice and its application to complex (messy/wicked) problems.

It is recommended for emerging evaluators who are interested in utilising a systems thinking approach and for more experienced evaluators who are interested in broadening their skill-set.

It is also recommended that Part A of the Guide be used to support capacity building of evaluation teams. 


Stephens, A., Lewis, E.D. and Reddy,S.M. 2018. Inclusive Systemic Evaluation (ISE4GEMs): A New Approach for the SDG Era. New York: UN Women.

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