Using Journey Maps for Qualitative Data Collection by Elizabeth DiLuzio

Greetings, eval community! Liz DiLuzio here, AEA365’s Lead Curator and sometimes contributor. Today, I want to explore with you the use of journey maps as a tool for collecting qualitative data. 

What are journey maps?
Image is of a young person's journey map, titled "My Service Journey". It has a wavy road running through the middle and four scenes drawn: letters being put in a mailbox, a clothing drive, a food drive, and a person donating a large sum of money.

Journey maps come from the world of Human-Centered Design. They are diagrams that depict an individual or group’s experience interacting with a particular program, service, or product from the initial to the final point of engagement. If the individual is still engaged, journey maps can also be used to project expectations for future engagements. These touch points are depicted with labeled points or illustrated pictures on a timeline from left to right. The photo to the right depicts a young person’s past, present, and imagined future experience with service.

In addition to a linear timeline, journey maps can also capture valence through highs and lows depicted by placing touch points higher or lower relative to others on the page. This left-to-right and top-to-bottom relationship of touch points results in what looks like a line graph.

How are they helpful?

Journey maps are an excellent tool for getting a clearer understanding about an individual’s experience over time. They can not only be used to look into an individual’s past but to elucidate their vision for the future. Instead of using a simple, semi-structured interview to get feedback, journey maps provide the individual with time and space to reflect quietly and tap into a creative portion of their brain. And while it may create discomfort to directly ask someone about the less positive aspects of their experience, the journey map framework is built on the expectation that there are highs and lows and provides the opportunity to collect one’s thoughts about what they want to share and how they want to share it. 

When can they be used?

Journey maps can be used to understand a participant’s experience of a program, a client’s experience of a service, a staff member’s experience of their work environment, or a grantee’s experience of the funder/fund recipient relationship. They can be used to solicit feedback from participants and staff alike. You can use them to gather feedback from individuals or groups. You can use them at a single point in time, or to observe changes with the same individuals over time. 

Lessons Learned

  • The younger (at heart) and more creative a person is, the more they will appreciate creating their journey map with large pieces of poster paper and colorful art supplies. Validating those who look at you like deer in headlights by telling them that it is equally okay to make a labeled line chart will go a long way. 
  • Anticipate how long you think it will take to create the maps, and then add 20 minutes. The degree to which people will get into their artwork cannot be overstated. 
  • It’s okay to not know what to expect. Like any quality facilitation structure, you simply need to create the space and cultivate what emerges. 

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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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