Visual tools for Evaluations
Using Visual tools for Evaluations:
Evaluation reports tend to be dense and wordy! When I worked as an evaluation manager, I often wondered if it would make a difference if we could use visual tools to share findings and lessons in a more user-friendly and accessible way.
Who has time to read an evaluation report?
I was able to test this idea when I had the opportunity to create some simple whiteboard animations explaining our organisation’s evaluation process to consultants and project staff. The animations (and accompanying infographics) were short and accessible and turned out to be a popular alternative to reading the organisation’s manual.
Would you rather read the manual?
Since that time, I have continued using visual tools: whiteboard animations and infographics, with evaluation teams, to distil and share evaluation findings and lessons. My experience has been that these tools add to the evaluation process and outcomes in a number of interesting ways.
Visual tools encourage a holistic and fresh perspective
Was this a turning point?
As they select the images to use, the group need to think about what the results and impact look like: “Are there concrete changes that can be shown in the animation? “.
Who and what changed?
At what point in the story do these changes begin to emerge? “… Questions like these can lead to useful discussion on the indicators of change including some which may be unexpected, or more important than predicted.
Which change was most valued?
I’ve found that people tend to interrogate an image more closely than written text, often spotting patterns as well as inconsistencies in the analysis. Sometimes, I create a visual representation of what has been written in an evaluation report, which evaluation team then finds ‘doesn’t look quite right’.
“That's not what we meant…”
For example, an evaluation report of an organisation’s approach to gender referred only to women in the text. When the evaluation team reviewed the storyboard, I’d created for the animation (showing only women), they saw that groups of people, who should have been considered and mentioned in the report (such as young men and older people), had not been included. Based on this insight, we were able to revise the animation (and the team’s insights and learning) to give a fuller picture of what was happening.
Have we missed someone?
Visual tools increase participation and ownership of results
“Yes, that's how it happened…”
I’ve found that many people are more likely to participate in discussing results when these are summarised in a picture. It’s easier to critique an image, or suggest changes to it, than to criticise each other, or a report. The gulf between the field staff, who may be more used to oral communication (and have less time to read reports), and the ‘report writers’ in the office, narrows.
“That was my idea…”
Visual tools help Evaluation findings reach more people
Would they have read the report?
When information is presented through images as well as words, people build up two mental representations (verbal and visual) and make connections between them. Images literally help us see what people mean. So, using visual tools helps make evaluation findings easier to digest, understand and remember.
You will remember this!
And Visual tools can do more!
Some Useful Resources for integrating Visual tools into the Evaluation process.