Bloggers Week: Sara Vaca on Visual Brains

Hi! I’m Sara Vaca, an economist reconverted into an evaluator and at the same time Data “Visualizer”. My idea is becoming a full time evaluator somewhere in the world, but for the moment I’m happy working as an evaluator consultant for short missions, based in Southern France.

Rad Resource – In 2011 while on a long maternity leave, I discovered on twitter the universe of infographics and Dataviz. I realized I’m such a visual person that I had to learn how to produce them myself. Ever since, I make mental visualizations of almost everything. I have particular fun converting issues of “New Directions for Evaluation (NDE)” into infographics (like this), doing visual Executive summaries for Evaluation reports or making a Visual CV (like these).

In 2012-13, during my second –and last- long maternity leave, I finally had the time to enroll into a M.A. in Evaluation, as I had longed to do after years working in non-profits in Europe and Africa. Both passions together –Evaluation and Dataviz- gave rise to my blog which I use as a display window to share my “experiments”.

Hot Tips: Favorite posts: I feel I’ve just begun “experimenting”, but here are my favorites:

  • What is evaluationThe first homework in the M.A. program was to explain in a 10-page essay what the differences between Evaluation and other disciplines such as Research, Quality, etc. are. This is the dataviz I came up with.
  • Mixed methods: the infographic:  I’m particularly proud with this post – it’s a personal view of the NDE #138, and I’m aware that some professors are using it for teaching 😛
  • A Very Incomplete (yet) Catalogue of Evaluation’s Methodologies: Still working on this, but here is a first approximation. More will be coming on these subject.

Lessons Learned: What I’ve learned: Dataviz is “infectious” – you tell people (evaluators included of course) that you can translate information in words and texts into different appealing formats and most of them find it brilliant. I love to see how the visual dimension in their brains is also awakened, as it happened to me, and some come back to report how this insight changed something in them.

Lessons Learned: Why I blog: My first motivation to create infographics is to help myself better understand the subject, to see it more clearly. Condensed information allows me to assimilate better than just reading it. At the same time, the creativity in it opens my mind.

Other than that, I like to blog for sharing and helping other people understand… or even to inspire them. And I think evaluation could use much more dataviz, and I’m already on it!

This winter, we’re continuing our occasional series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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