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Jara Dean-Coffey on Visual Facilitation and Graphic Recorders

My name is Jara Dean-Coffey, and I am the principal and founder of jdcPartnerships ( We partner with our clients to build their adaptive, strategic and leadership capacity and do so by using an evaluative inquiry approach to strategy formation, evaluation and assessment, leadership development and technical assistance and training. Our clients are in all sectors with the unifying purpose of striving to affect positive social change. Because we work in the intersection of disciplines, a lot of our initial work is about helping our clients get clear.

Hot Tip: Developing and using group process and facilitation skills is a important part of our tool kit and we are constantly finding ways to enhance. Often when working with a full organization, across organizations or community wide, we use a graphic recorder. A graphic recorder is, in short, a visual practitioner. The use of color, spatial placement of words, images and concepts has been incredibly powerful in our work around strategy and evaluation. The bonus: Clients LOVE IT. Instead of getting a 20 page bulleted report of a retreat, we give them a graphic record reflecting their words and process and a cover memo summarizing themes, recommendations and next steps. And for those who could not be at the meeting, they get a sense of the flavor of the conversation and its spirit and soul. Because ultimately, we are people doing this work. If you’d like to see an example created for our firm during a 2-day retreat to develop a Theory of Change with the full staff of a mid-size social sector organization, I have uploaded one into the AEA eLibrary at

Rad Resource: Check out the International Forum of Visual Practitioners Website ( for more information on the history and range of skill that they can bring to a process. Another key resource is Grove Consultants ( They not only provide graphic facilitation services but a great range of tools that you can integrate in to your practice. They also have an affiliate program where you can find a consultants to support your work.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the
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  • Chester Lavoy · January 24, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Many thanks spreading these types of valuable details. Your article Jara Dean-Coffey on Visual Facilitation and Graphic Recorders · AEA365 really assists us a whole lot. You can our content in addition, in case you take issue, you may also leave a person’s opinion.


  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · February 21, 2010 at 2:59 pm


    Thanks so much for the update on the conference – and the additional examples.

    I liked the CASS examples. Were these all from one meeting/event or developed over time? What is the time and financial investment?


  • Robert Benn · February 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Hi I’m President of the IFVP
    Thanks Susan for the pump on us visual practitoners!

    IFVP’s Annual conference is coming to Redwood City in August – lots of very visual and friendly people

    We have used ‘world cafe’ and graphic recording to take feedback from a variety of groups, from students to seniors – the information that comes out is organized and useful – and best of all comments like “I feel listened to” “I can see what we talked about”, abound.

    For those who are actively in the room while the graphic is created – it becomes an external memory tool – and in our experience the memory triggers survive for years.

    We have also had groups reproduce the more detailed ‘post=meeting” graphics as sharing and reminders of the plan… see for examples.

    hope this helps



  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · February 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks so much Jara!

    I also wanted to share a link to a set of (very short) free videos taken from a workshop on graphic facilitation – being able to visually represent relationships, connections, concepts, etc. when working with stakeholders:

    They helped me to understand it better and get a handle on the ‘doing’ of graphic facilitation.


  • Jara Dean-Coffey · February 14, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Hi Marcus and Susan,

    Thanks for your questions and interest in how we incorporate graphic recording in to our work. The chart posted was one of the graphics developed as we were moving through a series of discreet dialogues focused on components of a theory of change during a 2-day all staff retreat. Each captured graphically and looking a little different based on the design of the discussion for that component. For instance, when we talked about outcomes, we had staff use post-its and place then on a wall chart that we had crafted during the break. They were asked to place them on a time continuum as well as group them by the level they though the change would happen (individual, org, system). Essentially, we were building a matrix live.

    In general, we tend to use both pre-charts and live charts. Pre-charts are ones we do before which set the tone for the convening. They are things like the agenda and objectives for the day, useful practices, organizational mission/vision (assuming they are still valid), etc. We try to “own” the space by filling it with images and concepts reflecting the org. and our journey to that point.

    As for when in the process, it tends to be in the evaluation design phase but that will likely change as we seek ways to incorporate through the evaluative life cycle.

    Susan, let’s talk offline about the AEA proposal submission. I have some ideas germinating.


  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · February 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm


    I am intrigued! As we discussed, let’s move forward with submitting a conference proposal on the frontiers of visualization for evaluation. Other suggestions for panelists exploring other aspects?

    Also, want to echo Marcus’ question – how does it actually work when you use a graphic facilitator with clients? At what stage in the evaluation, etc.?

    Thanks for your great contribution,



  • Author comment by Marcus · February 12, 2010 at 8:55 am


    I must admit that this looks really good! But, I’d love to hear more about your overall process of creating one. Is this being created (in its final form) throughout the facilitation? Or, is it “spruced” up more afterward? Where do you typically start with things?


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