Communicating evaluation findings

Simon Hearn's picture 27th October 2012 by Simon Hearn

This blog post summarises some great tools, methods and tips for enhancing your communication and evaluation reporting. It's based on two conference sessions I've attended recently, one at the European Evaluation Society earlier in Oct 2012 and one at the American Evaluation Association taking place right now in Minneapolis.

The question of how we can better communicate with the intended users of our evaluations is an extremely important consideration for an evaluative process, but thankfully due to the myriad of tools freely available to us now, you don't have to be a communication expert to make a great impact.

In the BetterEvaluation Framework we refer to this task as developing reporting media. We already have a lot of good tips on this page but we'll be updating soon with the new stuff highlighted in this blog and the (hopefully) ensuing discussion.

Part 1: 7 new ways to communicate findings

One of my highlights of the European Evaluation Society's 10 biannual conference was a presentation given by Glenn O'Neil (Owl RE) about communicating evaluation findings. Glenn is a communication specialist turned evaluator so he's not only very qualified to talk about this but he's also a very good presenter - which is quite refreshing and scarily rare.

What I valued the most about Glenn's presentation was the simplicity and practicality. He presented 7 new ways to communicate findings (which he helpfully posted on his blog - thanks Glenn):

  1. Summary sheets, or research briefs or policy briefs as some call them. A shorter document will much more likely be read than the full report. (see here for BetterEvaluation guidance on executive summaries and friendly reporting).
  2. Findings tables. There a risk of dumbing down but presenting the raw findings can communicate your messages very strongly. (see here for guidance on posters). 
  3. Scorecards or dashboards are used commonly for real-time monitoring. (see here for guidance on organisational dashboards and reputational dashboards).
  4. Interactive web-pages or web apps (e.g. http://www.ushahidi.com/) (see here for guidance on website communication).
  5. Photostory or comic strips (see here for guidance on cartoons, photographs, and pictures).
  6. Blogs can be used in the process of evaluations as well as for discussing use. (we don't yet have guidance on blogs - but we'll work on some soon, or let me know if you are interested in working on this).
  7. Multimedia video report. (see here for guidance on using video).

Glenn also gave 7 tips for using new ways for presenting findings (7 is an important number as it's the limit of items the average person can remember):

  1. Thought needs to be given before the evaluation commences
  2. Many tools can be made simply but a budget is often required
  3. Once key findings are finalised thought needs to go into what points will be communicated
  4. The tool(s) you use will largely depend upon the level of interactivity desired
  5. Findings will be little seen without a promotional strategy
  6. Social media can be used for awareness-raising, interactivity or simply distribution
  7. For the doubters - visualisation of findings increases understanding and retention of messages.

Part 2: No cost/low cost tools for data visualisation and reporting

At the American Evaluation Association conference this year, Susan Kistler (Executive Director of AEA and host of aea365.org blog) presented a fast paced tour of some very handy, free (or low cost) tools for enhancing your evaluation reporting. This is where we overlap presenting findings with data visualisation, which comes under another task in the BetterEvaluation framework: Analyze Data.

Susan has shared a handout of all these online but I can't find it right now. I'll add it to the comments below once I have it. [EDIT: Susan has uploaded the slides here.]

  1. VisualJournalism Blog: examples of infographics (I add to this the Information Aesthetics blog as another source of good examples)
  2. Endless YouTube: create repeating loops from YouTube videos
  3. Official Seal Maker: create your own seals, for example for environmentally friendly reports.
  4. Wall Wisher: host a virtual post-it note board to collect and arrange ideas or receiving feedback.
  5. Multicolr search: search the Flickr library of images by colour combinations
  6. Colorzilla: identify exact colours used on a website
  7. Office Timeline: insert professional looking timelines in your PowerPoint presentations
  8. Snaggit: screen capture and image editing
  9. AmazeType: create words made up of amazon book covers by search term
  10. Evergreen Evaluation blog: all about data visualisation and reporting
  11. Poll everywhere: create simple instant SMS polls - useful for meetings
  12. Pinterest: curate and share your favorite links on any given topic
  13. AEA365 blog: Great Reading and guidance for tech tools as well as peer‐to‐peer sharing about all
    aspects of evaluation
  14. Prezi: an alternative to PowerPoint but not for the faint hearted!
  15. Tagxedo: create word clouds in any shape
  16. CartoDB: Generate Longitude and Latitude from addresses or postal codes, create dynamic maps.
  17. Storify: create content from social media
  18. PicturePalette: (iOS only) create colour palettes from a single colour in a photo or image
  19. Color Palette Generator: create a colour palette from a whole image
  20. Lovely charts: (not free) online, desktop or ipad drawing software for professional looking diagrams **Apologies to those interested, it appears this link is no longer working (April 18, 2018)**
  21. fiverr: Hire people to do projects for $5
  22. Pixton: Create your own comics
  23. Tableau Public: Suite of data visualization tools (free if data is made public)
  24. visual.ly: Create a very limited number of near‐instant infographics based on social media
    metrics
    Microsoft Photosynth: (iOS app) Stitch together photos into a panorama
    GIMP: Opensource photo editing, image development, and image type conversion tool
    amCharts: customizable examples of charts ready to embed in your applications
    PDFill: Save PDF Forms, Import and Update PDFs, extract pages, combine pdfs
     

(we'll add to this list once we find Susan's crib sheet - EDIT: the initial 13 have been expanded to 28 based on Susan's list on the AEA365 blog.)

Postscript

Of course, it's great to share and try out all these new tools but the question remains - how do you choose which to use? A big part of the decision is going to based on use - who are the intended users and how will they use your findings or engage in the evaluation? The format your choose for your reporting and the tools you use should be determined by the kind of influence you want your evaluation to have. This is also a very important topic which we hope will be the subject of another blog post.

Please let us know if you have experiences of any of these or any other new ways of presenting evaluation findings. We'll consolidate these and any reflections we get into the developing reporting media task page.

Image source: InsightShare http://betterevaluation.org/sites/default/files/eval-cartoon.png (via Glenn O'Neil)

A special thanks to this page's contributors
Author
Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute.
London.

Comments

Kennedy Oulu's picture
Kennedy Oulu

Hi Simon;

That is a comprehensive range of possibilities, however deciding on which one to use depends on alot of things.

In our case we looked at the following amongst others: Relevance of method to effectively communicate to target; How it will reach B/C from A; Cost (development and communication);Time...how fast;Feedback; Will it elicit discussions?....

We thus did a cartoon booklet to communicate findings of a research to young people. See the URL <http://2dayintanzania.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/research-communications-t...

 

Simon Hearn's picture
Simon Hearn

Hi Kennedy,

Good to hear from you. Thanks for posting the cartoon booklet example and more important for describing how you came to the decision. You are right, so often when it comes to communicating, we don't think strategically enough. We produce a report because that's what we've always done or we produce a website or a video because it's alternative and others seem to be having success. But like you say, what it boils down to is thinking clearly about who it is you are communicating to, what is the message and what kind of response are you aiming for - as well the practicalities like budget, resources, access to technology etc.

Simon

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