AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators



Susan Kistler on Winning a Free eStudy Registration, Comic Life, and Evaluation Communication Ideas

I am Susan Kistler, the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director and aea365’s regular Saturday contributor. Earlier this month, you heard from Soledad Muñiz about  InsightShare’s work with participatory video (PV) for monitoring and evaluation. PV isn’t the only area in which InsightShare is leading the way.

Hot Tip – Photostories: Photostories are a “new format developed by InsightShare for sharing project case studies in an accessible, fun and visually engaging format.” Each photostory is basically a comic that documents a project’s methodology. Here is an example. Click on it to open the high resolution version (it can take a moment to download).


Rad Resource – Example Photostories: More examples from InsightShare may be found online here.

Lessons Learned Using Photostories: I spoke with Soledad via Skype to ask her about InsightShare’s use of photostories. She noted that they offered an engaging option for telling what otherwise can be a dry subject, research methods. They could help to raise the interest of stakeholders and could span linguistic barriers, whether those be due to limited literacy or different languages spoken among stakeholders. Soledad noted that they used the Comic Life software to create their photostories and I decided to give it a try.

Rad Resource – Comic Life: Comic Life is software that helps you to quickly make comics from photos that you have on hand. It is extremely easy to use, with a drag and drop interface and multiple templates. When I demonstrated this in a workshop, an attendee asked if you couldn’t just create comics in another program, perhaps Microsoft’s Publisher or even PowerPoint. Yes! But, Comic Life makes the process considerably easier. The software indexed the files on my hard drive and then I could drag in those I wished to use, add text, and with a couple of clicks, everything was aligned and beautifully laid out and ready to publish. My mind began swimming with the possibilities for using Comic Life in different contexts. After the trial period ended, I happily paid the $29 for the version for my Mac laptop. It is also available for windows, and as a $4.99 ap for iOS devices.

Get Involved – Share your innovative evaluation communication ideas and win an eStudy workshop registration: I’ve written before, encouraging you to think imaginatively about engaging stakeholders around evaluation communication and reporting. Any time before May 10, share your idea for ‘out of the box’ options for evaluation communicating and reporting via the comments on the post. We’ll randomly select one contributor from among all of those making suggestions and you can win a free registration to Kylie Hutchinson’s upcoming eStudy “An Executive Summary is Not Enough: Effective Reporting Techniques for Evaluators” or any AEA eStudy of your choice offered between now and December 31, 2013. New eStudies are added monthly and the current list is online here. While you are welcome to comment multiple times, we’ll only consider one entry per person. You do not need to be an AEA member to enter.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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  • Dominica McBride · April 19, 2013 at 6:28 am

    Spoken word can be a powerful and engaging communication tool. It’s both informative and entertaining. Mix in a poem or song in a presentation and I have found it inspiring and re-engages/engages the audience in different ways. It ignites another part of them and inspires creativity.


  • Bernadette Wright · April 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    An idea to make evaluation communication more useful and transparent is to use more plain English and less jargon to describe our methods. Also, using concrete examples and metaphors can help make abstract concepts more clear. Thanks!


  • Jessica Foster · April 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I’ll admit that I have not always been as creative as I would like to in terms of communicating evaluation findings. However, one simple and concise way that I’ve reported findings in the past is via a 1-2 page brief. I found a newsletter template online that is Microsoft Word friendly and I inserted bullet points, quotes, and charts into the template. The brief format allows you to provide an overview of the study and it’s findings in an eye-catching format (think columns, sidebars, and charts, not just lines and lines of text) with lots of color and interesting layout and fonts. I think our stakeholders have appreciated this handy reporting format.


  • Nicky · April 18, 2013 at 10:52 am

    I’m an internal evaluator wrapping up an intensely utilization-focused formative evaluation. For two months I met weekly with the primary stakeholders (2 program directors) to review findings, discuss recommendations and create utilization plans. These meetings were a great team experience, including some heated debates, and they caused the program directors to feel strongly that the evaluation was a valuable and supportive process for them.
    One chapter of the final report is dedicated to describing how the program directors are already using about 30 findings/recommendations. But it’s long, dry and process-oriented. Now I’m wondering how to communicate our great utilization success to secondary and tertiary stakeholders (our CEO and corporate funders, for example).
    (Ok, this is more question than tip, but I’d love to be in the lottery for an e-study seat!)


  • Brendan L · April 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    A e-newsletter is a great way to communicate results when they are ready, especially for internal evaluators who work with many different, but related, departments.


  • Martine · April 17, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I always try to tell a story when I’m presenting results. More pictures, less bullet points. People still get the data but understand the larger implications for the numbers they are seeing.


  • Anthony F Walsh · April 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

    One new communication that we are planning on trialing this year is using Google’s hangout for a focus group with people in diverse locations.


  • Robert Owens · April 17, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I’ve always liked the idea of using a play or some other dramatic presentation, using stakeholders and participants as actors. I’ve never actually tried it, and don’t imagine it is suitable for all evaluations.


  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · April 17, 2013 at 7:10 am

    I’m not eligible, but I’m still partial to leveraging video for evaluation reports, especially for community or youth-focused evaluands. (see It also opens up a new dissemination channel.


  • Sole · April 15, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Great post Susan! Just to add that photostories can also let you share the “behind the scenes” of an evaluation and how it was conducted, which methods were used, and which stakeholders were involved for greater transparency and accountability.


  • girija kaimal · April 15, 2013 at 10:21 am

    How about an executive summary the size of a tweet, namely “140 characters.”

    Although reductive, it limits the key takeaways from the evaluation study into a form that the reader/listener/stakeholder will never forget.


  • Molly Hamm · April 15, 2013 at 8:03 am

    When conducting youth focused evaluation, options for creative reporting AND learning are endless if you engage the youth in the planning and production! Think mini-newspapers complete with headline articles, opinion pieces, and photos; “telenovelas,” infomercials, or ad campaigns; creative bulletin boards in high-traffic areas relevant to the program evaluated, etc. Youth can work with existing content (results) and help present it in a way that is interesting and engaging for a variety of audiences.


    • Anne Heberger Marino · April 17, 2013 at 9:35 am

      The photostories are incredibly powerful. Thanks for sharing them. I could see many uses for them, including to explain a theory of change or describe an evaluation plan. The idea of a “tweetable” executive summary could be extended to create one tweet for each section of an evaluation report. I don’t have an example of this, but I’ve been thinking about how to incorporate crowd sourcing into various stages of evaluation for programs that have national/international reach and/or the numbers to support it.


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