A data party is a time-limited event of several hours where diverse stakeholders come together to collectively analyse data that have been collected. They provide interpretations of what the data mean and the implications for action. This process can improve the quality of interpretation, by bringing additional information that can be used to interpret evaluation data, supports dialogue across diverse perspectives about the credibility and implications of data, and builds support for using the findings. The event is intended to be an enjoyable experience, including food and relationship building.
A data party can make use of a range of processes, including a gallery walk, where people view posters of results and informally discuss them before joining in a plenary discussion, data placemats, which set out some key findings on a sheet with questions to prompt people to provide interpretations or other responses, a World Café, where people move around a number of tables, each ‘hosted’ by someone focused on a particular topic, and data dashboards.
This example comes from Nancy Kanz (2013):
One recent participatory research project explored how farmers prefer to learn and what that means for Extension education (Franz, Piercy, Donaldson, Richard, & Westbrook, 2010a, 2010b). This project included 10 farmers and Extension educators in a steering committee that helped guide the research. Specifically for data analysis, steering committee members helped decide that a data analysis party was appropriate, that the whole committee should be invited but participation was voluntary, that the party should take place at a centrally located Extension office, and that the Extension staff and researchers would set up the other logistics related to the event. The steering committee was comfortable with the lead researcher facilitating the event. A stipend and mileage was set up for steering committee members who participated in the event. Data summaries were provided by the researchers to all committee members prior to the party.
The data party lasted 5 hours, including a lunch break held in the meeting room. Two researchers, two farmers, and two Extension staff participated in the data analysis. Each research question was presented, and participants provided their analysis of the data for each question. Participants also answered general questions about the data, such as:
- What surprised you about the data?
- What was confirmed by the data that you already knew?
- What was missing in the data that you thought you would see?
- What other meanings do you see in the data that we haven't already discussed?
- What other comments do you have about the data?
The researchers recorded discussions with flip charts, notes taken by individuals, and audio recording. Probing of responses was common to reveal deeper meanings interpreted by the participants. After summarizing the day and discussing next steps, the researchers conducted a brief round-robin activity to determine the immediate impact of the data party. It was the first time any of the participants had been involved in a data party. They felt this method of data analysis helped them articulate what the data meant for those similar to themselves. They also felt it deepened their understanding of the research project results. Finally, they became very committed to sharing the project results with others.
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Participatory Data Analysis eXtension Evaluation Community Blog: This blog by Kylie Hutchinson and Corey Newhouse gives an overview of what a data party is and why it is helpful.
You're invited to a data party! This PDF 'invitation' by Kylie Hutchinson (Community Solutions) is a useful one-page overview of the essentials of running a data party - the who? what? when? why? and where?. It also includes the how? by listing some useful reflective questions to get the data party started.
Get More from Your Data: Three Steps To Success: This sample session agenda takes teams through a three-part set of conversations about their data: Scan, Diagnose, and Prioritize.
Dabbling in the Data: The guide, Dabbling in the Data, includes detailed instructions for teams to use to delve more deeply into quantitative and qualitative data.
The data party: Involving stakeholders in meaningful data analysis: This article by Nancy Franz shares tips and an example about using data parties as community engagement in data analysis.
Have a Data Party to Share Evaluation Results: This blog by Kendra Lewis shares her experience using a “data party” as a way to engage camp staff in evaluation data. Graphs, tables, word clouds, and open-ended prompts were used to initiate conversation among the staff.
Franz, Nancy K., 2013. The data party: Involving stakeholders in meaningful data analysis. Journal of Extension, 51(10), p.1IAW2. Available at: https://www.joe.org/joe/2013february/iw2.php
Hutchinson, Kylie 2015 It’s a data party! http://comm.eval.org/HigherLogic/System/DownloadDocumentFile.ashx?DocumentFileKey=7055afa0-66cf-2bc8-8bc9-8dcca315f724
Lewis, Kendra (2017) Have a Data Party to Share Evaluation Results https://www.acacamps.org/news-publications/blogs/research-360/have-data-party-share-evaluation-results
Newhouse, Corey and Kylie Hutchinson (2016) Participatory Data Analysis eXtension Evaluation Community Blog https://publish.extension.org/evalcop/tag/data-parties/
Vargas, K. Data Party like it’s 2099! How to throw a data party. https://news.nnlm.gov/neo/2015/11/20/how-to-throw-a-data-party/