Week 16: Infographics to make your evaluation results go viral
Continuing our season of blogs on presenting evaluation findings in ways that will get them read (and hopefully used), Joitske Hulsebosch, an independent consultant, contributes her ideas on how to present your findings in the form of an infographic.
It is not always evident that lessons from evaluations in development programmes travel across borders: I remember clearly talking to an NGO director in Tamale, Ghana, who was disappointed that the loans provided to farmers were not repaid... I was flabbergasted because I had worked in other countries like Kenya and Ethiopia where so many evaluations had shown that credit programmes are best handled by financial institutions: NGOs’ relationships with farmers means they are inappropriate institutions to handle credit. There are many reasons for this lack of learning: development professionals are often too busy to read evidence from other countries; evaluation results are not accessible, or only in the form of long (and for some) irrelevant reports; and sometimes people have to pass their own learning curve.
The example I’ve described took place before the rise of social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs. With the new social media and increased access to internet in many places, there are new opportunities to connect and share evaluation lessons. And one particular interesting tool for sharing evaluation results are infographics.
What are infographics?
An infographic (information graphic) is a representation of information in a graphic format designed to make the data easily understandable at a glance. People use infographics to quickly communicate a message, to simplify the presentation of large amounts of data, to see data patterns and relationships, and to monitor changes in variables over time.
Below you see an example of an infographic of the evaluation of Nightstop, a program in the UK. Nightstop gives a young homeless person (age 16-25) a place to stay in the home of a local volunteer community host for one night to around three weeks. The infographic is attractive because it shows in one glance where Nightstop has been active and how many people have been reached.
What are advantages of using infographics for sharing evaluation results?
Compared with sharing your results in a report or factsheet, infographics have some interesting features:
- An infographic forces you to condense your results into key messages and lessons, making it easier for readers to scan whether the results are interesting. You can still link to longer reports for the people who really care about a topic and want the full details.
- An infographic can be easily shared online and many people can see it. Sharing the link through sites like Twitter, Google+ or on Facebook pages can help get exposure. You might also print them in larger formats for face-to-face events.
- An infographic is focussed on figures and facts – leaving the interpretation for the reader. This makes them good discussion starters, either on or offline.
How to make an infographic
You may wonder if you can make an infographic if you are evaluator or program coordinator – yes, you can! I had been postponing making an infographic for a long time because I thought it would take a long time to learn the process, but when I made an infographic with piktochart I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was. In half a day I had produced my first infographic – here it is in Dutch:
Here are the steps I took:
- I thought about a topic of interest to me and wrote it down on paper. I then searched for all relevant information concerning the topic. I found two reports and decided that would be enough as a basis. I read the reports and jotted down the interesting statistics (about 6-7 graphs).
- I created my free account on piktochart and started playing around with it choosing a theme. The theme I chose had three subsections and that helped me to structure and focus my ideas.
- I went back to my data and chose the three most compelling ones. I tried to select the data which were telling a story. My storyline was that people use social media at home, few organizations invest in social media for internal knowledge sharing and if they do, they ignore the important role of community management. I inserted these data in the infographic.
- After finishing my infographic, I copied the html code to embed it on my blog and downloaded the graph. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of times my graph was mentioned and retweeted.
Alternatives to Piktochart are Easel.ly and Infogr.am
Who should make the infographic?
Personally I see the huge advantage of infographics in sharing evaluation results across programmes and projects. Either project leaders and/or the evaluators can make infographics, or you could ask a graphic designer to take on the job. However, you could also use infographics within the evaluation process itself, for instance by sharing the infographic with stakeholders and interpreting it together. Or ask stakeholders to draw their own infographics with the anticipated results. This could lead to reveal interesting differences in perspectives.
Want more inspiration?
Using visual communication to increase evaluation utilization
Elissa Schloesser on 5 Steps for Translating Evaluation Findings into Infographics
New evaluation shows Nightstop emergency housing services prevent youth homelessness and improve health and wellbeing
Celebrating one year of BetterEvaluation