Hi, Lyn Paleo here, Evaluation Manager at First 5 Contra Costa (California), a small foundation funding services for children birth to five years and their families using California tobacco tax dollars.
At First 5 Contra Costa, the days of 100+ page text-heavy reports are over. Instead, we combine maps, graphs, and other visual formats with just enough sidebar text to provide context. Since we use only a limited number of graphic formats, stakeholders know how to quickly grab the graph’s main message. For example, to report indicators by ethnicity, we use the same colors and same order for each split-axis horizontal histogram (how to: http://www.mrexcel.com/tip115.shtml), with rates on the left and counts on the right. In this way, users identify in a flash those indicators with disparities in rates, and gain a sense of the numbers of people affected. In addition, to easily identify disparities by geography, we map the same information. (For a sample, view the Strategic Plan Briefing book, Chapter Two, pages 19 and 21: http://www.firstfivecc.org/index.php?page=retreat-briefing-book
Hot Tips: We draw from many State and national databases to obtain comparative data; three useful sites are listed below. (These are specific to California.)
The Packard Foundation’s kidsdata.org is a great resource that pulls reliable data from agencies such as the State Department of Education, the Youth Behavioral Survey, etc., and offers simple querying tools. www.kidsdata.org
The California Health Interview Survey has recently launched a more complex query tool, AskChIS, and offers several ways to learn to use it effectively. http://www.chis.ucla.edu/main/default.asp
Healthy Cities has launched a mapping website for California by county, zip code and political jurisdiction. Both query and formatting functions are available. While not as robust as (expensive) ESRI Arc software, it is among the better free mapping sites. www.healthycity.org
Rad Resource: If you design maps or graphs, how will a person with colorblindness see it? Color Oracle is a colorblindness simulator for Windows, Mac and Linux. Once you download this small, simple program, you simply open your document (Word, Excel, PDF, etc) and click on the Color Oracle icon. You’ll see the graph or map the way those with each of the three types of colorblind impairments actually see it. http://colororacle.cartography.ch/
To learn more about color design for color-impaired readers: http://colororacle.cartography.ch/design.html Evaluating Map Graphics For Color-Blind Viewers Published by Leszek Pawlowicz, is another valuable reference (remember to scroll down the page): http://freegeographytools.com/2008/evaluating-map-graphics-for-color-blind-viewers