Hi, my name is Elizabeth DiLuzio. I’m an evaluation and learning specialist passionate about telling an organization’s story with data, and I’m the Manager of Evaluation and Learning at Good Shepherd Services in New York City. Today, I want to share two data visualization techniques that can enable you to report about your constituents in an even more holistic, empathic manner: “I am…” word clouds and social network maps.
Evaluators, foundations, and nonprofits are no strangers to looking critically at how to better provide culturally competent services. Their inquiries have produced noteworthy resources such as AEA’s Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation, The Anne E. Casey Foundation’s Embracing Equity practice guide, and the foundation of the Equitable Evaluation Project. These and other materials help to lay the groundwork for ethical evaluation practices. But what does this mean for the evaluator in the field? How do we take our evaluation reports to the next level of cultural competence?
One way is to reflect upon how we define and describe our constituents. How aligned is our description of them to their description of themselves? Are we getting at the heart of who they are?
A simple yet powerful way to assure authentic alignment is to ask those you evaluate to define themselves. Present them with the sentence stem, “I am…” and record the one word answer they provide.
To analyze and present your data, try using a word cloud to display all of the responses. This free technology will automatically give special attention to the more frequent responses by way of larger fonts. Two free websites you can use are Wordclouds and Wordle.
Social Network Maps
Another way to move beyond traditional identifiers into a more holistic picture is by analyzing and presenting a social network map. This is particularly useful when the subject of your evaluation is a family, school, or some other group of individuals. Rather than describing the group by its identifying traits, a social network map shows how individuals relate to and network with one another. It visually demonstrates natural leaders, connectors, and outliers through a series of nodes and lines that vary in size and density.
Kumu is an online platform that can help you to create your own social network map. You can find resources on its website to walk you through your first foray at social network mapping, from setting up your dataset to the analysis itself.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Data Visualization and Reporting (DVR) Week with our colleagues in the DVR Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from DVR TIG members. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.