You’re Invited to a Data Party by Kylie Hutchinson

Kylie Hutchinson

Hello! I’m Kylie Hutchinson, an independent evaluation consultant with Community Solutions Planning & Evaluation, author of several books on evaluation and program and planning, and frequent creator of free evaluation resources.

So, you’re doing an evaluation and have analysed the data. Your next task is to write a final report…or is it?

What about hosting a data party?

Data parties are a participatory session where you sit down with your partners, collaborators, and other intended users to collaboratively and equitably explore and interpret the initial results. Data parties are an important but often underutilized activity for promoting enhanced interpretation, greater uptake of recommendations, knowledge translation, and a learning culture.

Other reasons to hold a data party include:

  • identify and honour differences in people’s perceptions and interpretation
  • empower collaborator voices and incorporate/affirm lived experience
  • increase collaborators’ capacity to understand and use data
  • identify what data might still be needed
  • build consensus on the results & conclusions
  • develop realistic recommendations
  • increase buy-in for later implementation of recommendations
  • inform better programming and policies.

Hot Tip

  • There is no single recipe or step-by-step instructions for a data party. Your agenda will depend on factors such as the context of the evaluation, type of data collected, data literacy of those attending, and a myriad of other factors. However, I regularly refer to this Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-making as a facilitation refresher or primer.

Rad Resources

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.

8 thoughts on “You’re Invited to a Data Party by Kylie Hutchinson”

  1. Hi Kylie,
    Thanks for your post! Your title grabbed my attention right away! I have never heard of data parties and they sound so intriguing. As a teacher, we participate in a number of collaborative activities, including round tables, which is what this reminds me of. The ability to meet with other members of the affected community to look at the different aspects of information and the plan is incredibly meaningful and effective.
    I appreciated that you shared the meaning of what a “Data Party” is as well as both their benefits and resources to support hosting your own data party. I am currently in my Professional Masters in Education and I have had a hard time connecting to some of the evaluation components, specifically what to do with the data and how do you use and interpret it. This article gave a clear picture of how to approach the data and an easy way to sit down and analyze it. In reading your reasons for hosting a data party, to “build consensus on the results & conclusions” is one that spoke to me. Creating the results and what they really mean is crucial in an effective evaluation.
    Thanks again for sharing a creative and clear idea with data and evaluation!

  2. Hello Kylie,
    Thank you for your very interesting article about data parties. When planning on ways to share data findings, I thought the only options would be a report or presentation. Reports or formal presentations do not support an evaluator to see if the information was properly interpreted, receive timely feedback or support discussions around recommendations. I would have never thought of such a creative and unique way such as a data party. Thank you for the ‘hot tips’ and ‘rad resources’- these are very helpful!
    In my interest to host a data party in the near future, a few questions came to mind:
    1. How much time does a data party typically take? Your sample invitation states two hours minimum but the 4H article stated two full days.
    2. Is there any resistance from stakeholders to participate due to the amount of time needed? Are there strategies that organisers can use to communicate the importance of a data party rather than sending a report or summary of findings?
    3. In this time of COVID, do you know of anyone has hosted a virtual data party? Do evaluators and stakeholders find it as effective as in-person? Are there resources available to improve the virtual experience for participants?
    Thank you again for your interesting and informative article.

  3. Hi Kylie,

    I’m very glad to have come across your blog post on AEA 365 titled “You’re Invited to a Data Party by Kylie Hutchinson.” It was very relevant to me as a current Queen’s University student learning about program evaluation.

    We are currently creating our own evaluations and finishing up the final tasks. Further to that, I feel that your post touches nicely on what I just discussed about dilemmas and implications in program evaluation, specifically bias and conflicting beliefs. You stated that “data parties are a participatory session where you sit down with your partners, collaborators, and other intended users to collaboratively and equitably explore and interpret the initial results. So with that in mind, I feel that your data party would actually help iron out the issues of bias, conflicting interests, leadership changes, etc.

    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi Kylie,
    Yes, please! I would love to go to a data party! I am a bit of a data geek. As a teacher, I always enjoyed the staff meetings and professional development days when we would look at data that showed our students’ recent performances on numeracy and literacy assessments. Delving into discussions about what the data meant helped my colleagues and me set goals and make adjustments to our programs of instruction.

    I am new to program evaluation, in fact, I really did not know what it was before taking a course at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario as part of a my Professional Master’s of Education (the same as some of your other responders). I have come to understand that program evaluation is a complex process with a growing number of theories. I do admit at times that the topic can be a bit dry, which is why I was excited when I read the title of your article. Who does not like a party?

    I have read articles about collaborative models of evaluation (see Shula and Cousins, 1986; Weiss, 1998; Taut, 2007) with its strengths and limitations. We do live in a world now that recognizes and celebrates differences, and we grow from the opportunities that we have to see situations from different perspectives. A data party is just that opportunity. It can encourage critical thinking and questioning (Weiss, 1998), and bring evaluators and collaborators together as you mentioned in your post.

    The song linked in your post, “I’m Dreaming of a Data Party”, really does sum up the purpose of data parties. The line “‘Cause people, support what they create…” really stuck out to me. If we want stakeholders to use the recommendations from evaluations, then we need to involve them in the process.

    Thank you, Kylie, for your post.

  5. Hi Kylie,
    As a few other respondents mentioned, I am also currently taking a Professional Masters of Education at Queen’s University. I am specializing in assessment and evaluation and in the midst of completing my first course in program evaluation. We have been looking at program evaluation design and this week we were focusing on data collection. When I saw your blog I related to it right away due to the information we were provided the past week on data resources and collection. It is interesting that we learned about the importance of involving all the stakeholders involved in the program. However, we were not given the idea of a data party. I think this is an interesting approach to involving all the stakeholders and gathering different perspectives.
    Thank you for your suggestions and guided questions to help in having such an event.


  6. Hello Kylie!
    I am an elementary teacher and I am currently enrolled in the Professional Masters of Education program at Queen’s University in Canada. This semester I am taking a course where I am learning about program evaluation for the first time. As I have started to chip my way around the very edges of program evaluation theory (oh my, there is SO much information and research on this topic!) I have found it generally pretty difficult to connect to the course material as an elementary teacher.
    I connected to your blog post right away, (not just because it advertised a party that I was excited to be invited to!) but because the concept of a “Data Party” immediately is inviting collaboration. As I’m learning about the role of an evaluator, I’m finding that it is so important for an evaluator to be able to be unbiased, but also invite the stakeholders to participate in order to increase buy in, and increase the likelihood of utilizing the recommendations of the evaluation.
    The concept of a Data Party makes so much sense to me, not only as an elementary teacher, but also as someone who is new to program evaluation. The ability to share ideas and interpretation of the data with collaborators and stakeholders is so incredibly powerful. In its simplest form, a Data Party would be an excellent chance to share the data with stakeholders, and increase understanding and buy-in, therefore increasing the possibilities of the recommendations being utilized after the evaluation. My elementary teacher heart loved it when you mentioned that it will help to “identify and honour the differences in people’s perceptions and interpretation.” I love that a Data Party can bring together the perspectives of different lifestyles and cultures of all collaborators. When I looked at your poster, my favourite question that you suggested was, “What story is this data telling you?” Open-ended questions like that invite the collaborators to look at the data from their perspective, and honours the holistic story that the data shows.
    Thank you for bringing such beautiful ideas to program evaluation!
    Kristi Walkey

  7. Danica Govorchin

    This is the first time I have heard of Data Parties! I am currently completing a Master of Education and taking a course in Program Inquiry and Evaluation. The class is currently looking at modes of data collection, interpretation, and use. One of the issues I have come across in my readings about data interpretation and reporting is the influence of evaluator bias, especially in context of participatory evaluation (Alkin & Taut, 2003; Shulha & Cousins, 1997; Weiss, 1998). Opening this process to stakeholders, program planners, and participants would help in terms of gaining multiple perspectives on the data and its use. I also think data parties make total sense if the evaluation process was done collaboratively and included participants, program planner and stakeholders from the get-go. This helps to build a sense of ownership for all parties involved and will hopefully lead to a greater likelihood that evaluation recommendations will be implemented.

    I appreciate your inclusion of the article that breaks down data parties in more detail along with the list of sample questions to ask during data parties. I can see how these questions would build meaningful discussions and understandings of the findings as well as generation of ideas for program improvement. These sources have provided me with additional considerations towards a Program Evaluation Design project I am working on. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Kylie, thanks for this post. The sample questions in the resources you shared were really helpful in suggesting how reviewing &making meaning from data can be introduced in ways that are accessible (rather than opaque) for folks who may not be used to looking at information like this.

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