Friday, April 29, 2011

Tools to create infographics.

This post from Fast company provides an overview of some tools for creating info graphics.

They discuss:
Many Eyes
Which allows you to visually represent some data sets that they have available, or allows you to upload your own to play with.

Google Public Data Explorer
Which is a public version of one of Google's research tools.

Which helps you to create and customzie Venn Diagrams. Hohli also allows you to create other charts, including scatter plots and other line charts.

Although this tool describes itself as a "toy" for generating word clouds, it can be an effective service to spruce up your work.
Is a new tool (still being tested), that will allow you to create and share infographics. From a first look on YouTube, this new service will be a great resource to create a compelling storytelling visualization. A youtube clip explains it all

Groups of Teachers building their own capacity?

A client requires an evaluation of a teacher development initiative. This initiative aims to establish a teacher network which brings teachers from different schools together. It is hoped that the teachers will develop their own capacity with the help of a facilitator that has some content to share.

Rogers & Funnell (2010 - Purposeful Programme Theory, Jossey Bass) introduced me to some network theory, and they also provide a representation of a community capacity building programme "archetype". This archetype sets out the steps which must occur for this kind of programme to work. The steps are: (Not necessarily in a linear order).

1. Community develops a better understanding of issues,
opportunities, and challenges that it can address and potential
projects, activities, or processes through which to address them.

They then mobilise their human capital, social capital, institutional capital, economic capital and natural capital, which may result in:

2. Community developing an awareness and understanding of one or
more elements of its existing capacity.

3. Community develops a better understanding of the relevance of
its existing capacity to take up opportunities, projects, and
challenges, what further capacity is required, and who requires it.
write-up of Network Theory that I found particularly useful

4. Community identifies and undertakes activities, processes, and
projects that successfully develop required capacity

5. Community taps into and applies existing and/or newly
developed capacity to address challenges and seize opportunities

6. Community identifies how it can sustain and enhance its
capacity and looks for new opportunities to apply capacity

7. Stronger Communities:
Enhanced and maintained well-being of communities

The evaluation sets out to look for proof that the teacher development worked: by checking if the teachers' practices have changed, and looking for evidence that the learners have benefited. I'm making the argument that the result of establishing a sustainable network should also be looked at separately - as a different category of results.

To evaluate the network, we'll have to use social network analysis methods. An AEA LinkedIn discussion alerted me to a programme called NODEXL (A free plug-in for Excel)
which I intend to try out.

This tutorial from the "Findings group" explains some basic concepts in social network analysis.

All that's left to do, is to apply these new things and to explain to colleagues that Social Network Analysis has nothing to do with Facebook or Twitter!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Using Dashboards to communicate findings

Shaku Atre says:
"The fundamental premise of business intelligence has traditionally been “to provide the right information to the right people at the right time and at the right cost.” While this statement is irrefutable, it would be more accurate if we changed the word “information” to “actionable information.”

This sounds quite similar to the UFE focus of ensuring that evaluation findings are available to the intended users for the intended use!

In communicating results in a useful manner, this resource from Information Management shares some interesting ideas about Dashboards.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Hypothetical Crucial Confrontations

Every Utilization Focused Evaluator knows: If an evaluation deliverable is submitted late, it can potentially totally negate the reason for doing the evaluation in the first place. If the intended user does not have the information at his/her disposal when the time for the intended use comes, you have a disaster.

Late delivery and a whole range of unpleasant consequences can be prevented, if you have the skill of holding people accountable for broken promises along the way. I find holding my team accountable is relatively easy, but holding a client accountable for broken commitments, is quite a different ballgame- A very unpleasant and daunting one!

Imagine the following totally hypothetical* example: You are working with a client who commits to giving feedback on deliverables by a certain date, and by the time you get to that date, there is no feedback. Or no consequential feedback. Then you try to get sign-off on deliverables, but a second and third round of comments follow, and it takes forever to move along. Hypothetically speaking, it could take you 8 months to get sign off on one deliverable!

It could be really difficult to work effectively with such a (hypotehtical) client, and you may start to doubt your own ability to execute. I cringe if I look at it from the hypothetical client's perspective - and I'm not sure what this must look like to a hypothetical innocent bystander.

Evaluation team leaders need to be able to hold their clients accountable for broken commitments, else the team may be heading for a deep and dark place where everyone just ends up hating working together.

I'm reading a book called "Crucial Confrontations" on exactly this topic. It is packed with so many interesting concepts. I can highly recommend it. See: (Also available on Kindle!)

The book has taught me to be a little bit more discerning about the actual problem that needs to be addressed (amongst other things). Who would've thought that what seems like a simple (hypothetical) problem can actually be so very complex?

1) If the problem is a single instance of not receiving feedback all you need to do is follow up with the client until he / she has met his / her commitment. Getting the feedback once, means the problem is resolved.

2) If the problem is a pattern of broken commitments, just dogging the client until he/ she provides feedback will probably only resolve the problem until the next round of feedback is due. Perhaps the process of feedback and signoff should be changed, to break this pattern?

3) But the problem may be a relationship problem. If the client is in a difficult position in his / her organization he / she may be unable to act quickly / definitively / at all. No amount of process change will solve this quandary. If a pattern of broken commitments have lead to tensions in the relationship between the client and the evaluator, interacting is likely to become more difficult as time goes by, and more commitments will be broken. The solution that is required, is a fix for the relationship!

The book has so many other good suggestions, which would be very handy in planning interactions with a hypothetical problem client. May you never have the need of applying these skills!

*My husband says that when people say "theoretically" they mean "not really". When I say hypothetically, I mean exactly that!