Dawn Henderson on Consider Telling a Story

Hello, I am Dawn Henderson, a doctoral student pursuing a community psychology concentration in the Psychology in the Public Interest program at North Carolina State University. In a faraway land, and maybe for some, right in the backyard we are involved in evaluation work with non-profit organizations. If you are like me, then this experience has broadened your knowledge in ways to approach the relevance of “data” in evaluation. A conversation that I had last summer with a colleague involved how to lead a discussion on methods, specifically data collection and analysis. That colleague of mine explained the metaphor of telling the story–whether that is qualitative, quantitative or the combination of both. I thought I would share some hot tips on storytelling that can provide you with some strategies in your current work in evaluation.

Hot tip 1: Define your character(s). If you’ve taken that English class, then you know that most stories require you to identify and define the “who.” This is the specific target of the organization’s services and/or programs, whether that is multiple stakeholders or a smaller sect. Use guiding questions with the organization that can assist them in thinking through this. Who are our main targets and/or focus? Who is our main audience?

Hot tip 2: Define your setting (s). Setting is the context in which the “who” will be evaluated and where. Pushing the boundaries a bit, specifically for non-experimental designs, this may translate into a variety of natural settings such as homes, schools, community centers, etc. The setting also includes the time. Think of guiding questions such as, what will be the best place to gather information from our target? When we will collect this information (at the beginning and end, at the end only, etc.)?

Hot tip 3: Define your plot (s): The plot involves the actions to be taken by the organization and targets. It can be in related to learning a new process and behavior or providing service delivery. The plot may also include a diverse way of defining and evaluating those actions (such as photovoice, video, and journals). This is also a great way to introduce the logic model—demonstrating how a series of actions lead to outcomes (think of this as the beginning, middle and end).

Rad Resource on Creative Data Collection : I found Kimberly Lopez’s AEA 365 Blog on Getting Creative with the Data You Collect & Use for Evaluations and Susan Eliot’s blog: http://qualitative-researcher.com/blog/?p=1452 extremely useful in conceptualizing these tips.

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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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