Archive: reporting

Blog: Creating Interactive Documents

Posted on June 20, 2018 by  in Blog ()

Executive Director, Healthy Climate Alliance

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In 2016, I was an intern at the Evaluation Office (EVAL) of the International Labour Organization, where the constant question was, “How do we get people to read the reports that we spend so much time and energy on?” I had been looking for a new project that would be useful to my colleagues in EVAL, and a bolt of inspiration hit me: what if I could use the key points and information from one of the dense reports to make an interactive summary report? That project led me to the general concept of interactive documents, which can be used for reports, timelines, logic models, and more.

I recommend building interactive documents in PowerPoint and then exporting them as PDFs. I use Adobe Acrobat Pro to add clickable areas to the PDF that will lead readers to a particular section of the PDF or to a webpage. Interactive documents are not intended to be read from beginning to end. It should be easy for readers to navigate directly from the front page to the content that interests them, and back to the front page.

While building my interactive documents in PowerPoint, I follow Nancy Duarte’s Slidedocs principles to create visual documents that are intended to be read rather than presented. She suggests providing content that is clear and concise, using small chunks of text, and interspersing visuals. I use multiple narrow columns of text, with visuals on each page.

Interactive documents include a “launch page,” which gives a map-like overview of the whole document.

The launch page (see figure) allows readers to absorb the structure and main points of the document and to decide where they want to “zoom in” for more detail. I try to follow the wise advice of Edward Tufte: “Don’t ‘know your audience.’ Know your content and trust your audience.” He argues that we shouldn’t try to distill key points and simplify our data to make it easier for audiences to absorb. Readers will each have their own agendas and priorities, and we should make it as easy as possible for them to access the data that is most useful to them.

The launch page of an interactive document should have links all over it; every item of content on the launch page should lead readers to more detailed information on that topic. Every subsequent page should be extremely focused on one topic. If there is too much content within one topic, you can create another launch page focused on that particular topic (e.g., the “Inputs” section of the logic model).

The content pages should have buttons (i.e., links) that allow readers to navigate back to the main launch page or forward to the following page. If there’s a more detailed document that you’re building from, you may also want to link to that document on every page.

Try it out! Remember to keep your interactive document concise and navigable.

Blog: Summarizing Project Milestones

Posted on March 28, 2018 by  in Blog ()

Evaluation Specialist, Thomas P. Miller & Associates

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With any initiative, it can be valuable to document and describe the implementation to understand what occurred and what shifts or changes were made to the original design (e.g., fidelity to the model). This understanding helps when replicating, scaling, or seeking future funding for the initiative.

Documentation can be done by the evaluator and be shared with the grantee (as a way to validate an evaluator’s understanding of the project). Alternatively, project staff can document progress and share this with the evaluator as a way to keep the evaluation team up to date (which is especially helpful on small-budget evaluation projects).

The documentation of progress can be extremely detailed or high level (e.g., a snapshot of the initiative’s development). When tracking implementation milestones, consider:

  1. What is the goal of the document?
  2. Who is the audience?
  3. What are the most effective ways to display and group the data?

For example, if you are interested in understanding a snapshot of milestones and modifications of the original project design, you might use a structure like the one below:

click to enlarge and download

If you are especially interested in highlighting the effect of delays on project implementation and the cause, you may adjust the visual to include directional arrows and shading:

click to enlarge and download

In these examples, we organized the snapshot by quarterly progress, but you can group milestones by month or even include a timeline of the events. Similarly, in Image 2 we categorized progress in buckets (e.g., curriculum, staffing) based on key areas of the grant’s goals and activities. These categories should change to align with the unique focus of each initiative. For example, if professional development is a considerable part of the grant, then perhaps placing that into a separate category (instead of combining it with staffing) would be best.

Another important consideration is the target audience. We have used this framework when communicating with project staff and leadership to show, at a high level, what is taking place within the project. This diagramming has also been valuable for sharing knowledge across our evaluation staff members, leading to discussions around fidelity to the model and any shifts or changes that may need to occur within the evaluation design, based on project implementation. Some of your stakeholders, such as project funders, may want more information than just the snapshot. In these cases, you may consider adding additional detail to the snapshot visual, or starting your report with the snapshot and then providing an additional narrative around each bucket and/or time period covered within the visual.

Also, the framework itself can be modified. If, for example, you are more concerned about showing the cause and effect instead of adjustments, you may group everything together as “milestones” instead of having separate categories for “adjustments” and “additional milestones.”

For our evaluation team, this approach has been a helpful way to consolidate, disseminate, and discuss initiative milestones with key stakeholder groups such as initiative staff, evaluators, college leadership, and funders. We hope this will be valuable to you as well.

Webinar: Creating One-Page Reports

Posted on March 13, 2018 by , in Webinars ()

Presenter(s): Emma Perk, Lyssa Becho
Date(s): April 18, 2018
Time: 1-2 p.m. Eastern
Recording: https://youtu.be/V2TBfz24RpY

One-page evaluation reports are a great way to provide a snapshot of a project’s activities and impact to stakeholders such as advisory groups, college administrators, and NSF program officers. Summarizing key evaluation facts in a format that is easily and quickly digestible engages the busy reader and can make your project stand out.

Although traditional, long-form evaluation reports are still an excellent way to distribute evaluation results, one-page reports increase the engagement, understanding, and use of evaluation for both the current grant and leveraging findings with potential follow-up grants.

In this webinar, we will provide you with the tools and resources you need to create effective one-page reports and share some examples that have worked well in our practice.

One-Page Report Resources

Resources:
10 steps to creating one-page reports
One-page report worksheet
Slides
South Seattle One-Page Report

Blog: Overcoming Writer’s Block – Strategies for Writing Your NSF Annual Report

Posted on February 14, 2018 by  in Blog ()

Supervisor, Grant Projects, Columbus State Community College

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For many new grantees and seasoned principal investigators, nothing is more daunting than an email from Research.gov titled “Annual Project Report Is NOW DUE.” In this blog post, I will help tackle the challenge of writing the annual project report by highlighting the strategy Columbus State Community College has developed for effectively writing annual reports and discussing why this strategy also serves as a planning and feedback tool.

Columbus State’s strategy for Advanced Technological Education (ATE) annual reporting developed organically, with input and collaboration from faculty, staff, and external evaluators, and is based on three key components:

  • shared knowledge of reporting requirements and format,
  • a structured annual reporting timeline, and
  • best-practice sharing and learning from past experience.

This three-pronged approach was utilized by four ATE projects during 2017 and builds on the old adage that “you only get out what you put in.” The key to annual reporting, which also serves as an important planning and feedback tool, is the adoption of a structured annual reporting timeline. The 10-week timeline outlined below ensures that adequate time is dedicated to writing the annual report. The timeline is designed to be collaborative and spur discussion around key milestones, lessons learned, and next steps for revising and improving project plans.

PREPARE

Week 1: Communicating Reporting Requirements

Weeks 1-3: Planning and Data Collection

  • All team members should actively participate in the planning and data collection phase.
  • Project teams should collect a wide breadth of information related to project achievements and milestones. Common types of information collected include individual progress updates, work samples, project work plans and documentation, survey and evaluation feedback, and project metrics.

Week 4: Group Brainstorming

  • Schedule a 60- to 90-minute meeting that focuses specifically on brainstorming and discussing content for the annual report. Include all project team members and your evaluator.
  • Use the project reports template to guide the conversation.

WRITE

Weeks 5-6: First Draft Writing and Clarification Seeking

  • All information is compiled by the project team and assembled into a first draft.
  • It may be useful to mirror the format of a grant proposal or project narrative during this phase to ensure that all project areas are addressed and considered.
  • The focus of this stage is ensuring that all information is accurately captured and integrated.

REVISE

Week 7: First Draft Review

  • First drafts should be reviewed by the project team and two to three people outside of the project team.
  • Including individuals from both inside and outside of the project team will help ensure that useful content is not omitted and that content is presented in an accessible manner.

Weeks 8-9: Final Revisions

  • Feedback and comments are evaluated and final revisions are made.

Week 10: Annual Report Submission

  • The final version of the annual report, with appendices and the evaluation report, is uploaded and submitted through Research.gov.

For additional information about Columbus State’s writing tips, please view our full white paper.

Read more from the community here.

Blog: One Pagers: Simple and Engaging Reporting

Posted on December 20, 2017 by , in Blog ()
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Blog: One Pagers Simple and Engaging Reporting

Traditional, long-form reports are often used to detail the depth and specifics of an evaluation. However, many readers simply don’t have the time or bandwidth to digest a 30-page report. Distilling the key information into one page can help catch the eye of busy program staff, college administrators, or policy makers.

When we say “one pager,” we mean a single-page document that summarizes evaluation data, findings, or recommendations. It’s generally a stand-alone document that supplements a longer report, dataset, or presentation.

One pagers are a great way to get your client the data they need to guide data-driven decisions. These summaries can work well as companion documents for long reports or as a highlight piece for an interim report. We created a 10-step process to help facilitate the creation of a one pager. Additional materials are available, including detailed slides, grid layouts, videos, and more.

Ten-step process for creating a one pager:

1. Identify the audience

Be specific about who you are talking to and their information priorities. The content and layout of the document should be tailored to meet the needs of this audience.

2. Identify the purpose

Write a purpose statement that identifies why you are creating the one pager. This will help you decide what information to include or to exclude.

3. Prioritize your information

Categorize the information most relevant to your audience. Then rank each category from highest to lowest priority to help inform layout of the document.

4. Choose a grid

Use a grid to intentionally organize elements visually for readers. Check out our free pre-made grids, which you can use for your own one pagers, and instructions on how to use them in PowerPoint (video).

5. Draft the layout

Print out your grid layout and sketch your design by hand. This will allow you to think creatively without technological barriers and will save you time.

6. Create an intentional visual path

Pay attention to how the reader’s eye moves around the page. Use elements like large numbers, ink density, and icons to guide the reader’s visual path. Keep in mind the page symmetry and need to balance visual density. For more tips, see Canva’s Design Elements and Principles.

7. Create a purposeful hierarchy

Use headings intentionally to help your readers navigate and identify the content.

8. Use white space

The brain subconsciously views content grouped together as a cohesive unit. Add white space to indicate that a new section is starting.

9. Get feedback

Run your designs by a colleague or client to help catch errors, note areas needing clarification, and ensure the document makes sense to others. You will likely need to go through a few rounds of feedback before the document is finalized.

10. Triple-check consistency

Triple-check, and possibly quadruple-check, for consistency of fonts, alignment, size, and colors. Style guides can be a useful way to keep track of consistency in and across documents. Take a look at EvaluATE’s style guide here.

The demand for one pagers is growing, and now you are equipped with the information you need to succeed in creating one. So, start creating your one pagers now!

Vlog: Checklist for Program Evaluation Report Content

Posted on December 6, 2017 by  in Blog ()

Senior Research Associate, The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University

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This video provides an overview of EvaluATE’s Checklist for Program Evaluation Report Content, and three reasons why this checklist is useful to evaluators and clients.

Blog: Reporting Anticipated, Questionable, and Unintended Project Outcomes

Posted on August 16, 2017 by  in Blog ()

Education Administrator, Independent

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Project evaluators are aware that evaluation aims to support learning and improvement. Through a series of planned interactions, event observations, and document reviews, the evaluator is charged with reporting to the project leadership team and ultimately the project’s funding agency, informing audiences of the project’s merit. This is not to suggest that reporting should only aim to identify positive impacts and outcomes of the project. Equally, there is substantive value in informing audiences of unintended and unattained project outcomes.

Evaluation reporting should discuss aspects of the project’s outcomes, whether anticipated, questionable, or unintended. When examining project outcomes the evaluator analyzes obtained information and facilitates project leadership through reflective thinking exercises for the purpose of defining the significance of the project and summarizing why outcomes matter.

Let’s be clear, outcomes are not to be regarded as something negative. In fact, with the projects that I have evaluated over the years, outcomes have frequently served as an introspective platform informing future curriculum decisions and directions internal to the institutional funding recipient. For example, the outcomes of one STEM project that focused on renewable energy technicians provided the institution with information that prompted the development of subsequent proposals and projects targeting engineering pathways.

Discussion and reporting of project outcomes also encapsulates lessons learned and affords the opportunity for the evaluator to ask questions such as:

  • Did the project increase the presence of the target group in identified STEM programs?
  • What initiatives will be sustained during post funding to maintain an increased presence of the target group in STEM programs?
  • Did project activities contribute to the retention/completion rates of the target group in identified STEM programs?
  • Which activities seemed to have the greatest/least impact on retention/completion rates?
  • On reflection, are there activities that could have more significantly contributed to retention/completion rates that were not implemented as part of the project?
  • To what extent did the project supply regional industries with a more diverse STEM workforce?
  • What effect will this have on regional industries during post project funding?
  • Were partners identified in the proposal realistic contributors to the funded project? Did they ensure a successful implementation enabling the attainment of anticipated outcomes?
  • What was learned about the characteristics of “good” and “bad” partners?
  • What are characteristics to look for and avoid to maximize productivity with future work?

Factors influencing outcomes include, but are not limited to:

  • Institutional changes, e.g., leadership;
  • Partner constraints or changes; and
  • Project/budgetary limitations.

In some instances, it is not unusual for the proposed project to be somewhat grandiose in identifying intended outcomes. Yet, when project implementation gets underway, intended activities may be compromised by external challenges. For example, when equipment is needed to support various aspects of a project, procurement and production channels may contribute to delays in equipment acquisition, thus adversely effecting project leadership’s ability to launch planned components of the project.

As a tip, it is worthwhile for those seeking funding to pose the outcome questions at the front-end of the project – when the proposal is being developed. Doing this will assist them in conceptualizing the intellectual merit and impact of the proposed project.

Resources and Links:

Developing an Effective Evaluation Report: Setting the Course for Effective Program Evaluation. Atlanta, Georgia: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, 2013.

Resource: Get the Story Straight, and the Rest Will Follow: Developing infographics with a purpose

Posted on June 20, 2017 by  in Resources ()

Too often, people begin developing infographics by playing with templates, images, and data visualizations. And who can blame them? It’s fun! But while this process will produce an infographic, it might not result in a story that connects with your audience. A better approach is to begin by making intentional decisions about your infographic: clearly defining your audience, purpose, and message constitutes three foundational and critical steps for developing an effective infographic.

Read the full blog at: bit.ly/10stepsInfographic

10 steps to creating an infographic

Click on image to enlarge and download.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This information is from Stephanie Wilkerson at Magnolia Consulting.

Blog: What Goes Where? Reporting Evaluation Results to NSF

Posted on April 26, 2017 by  in Blog ()

Director of Research, The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University

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In this blog, I provide advice for Advanced Technological Education (ATE) principal investigators (PIs) on how to include information from their project evaluations in their annual reports to the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Annual reports for NSF grants are due within 90 days of the award’s anniversary date. That means if your project’s initial award date was September 1, your annual reports will be due between June and August each year until the final year of the grant (at which point an outcome report is due within 90 days after the award anniversary date).

When you prepare your first annual report for NSF at Research.gov, you may be surprised to see there is no specific request for results from your project’s evaluation or a prompt to upload your evaluation report. That’s because Research.gov is the online reporting system used by all NSF grantees, whether they are researching fish populations in Wisconsin lakes or developing technician education programs.  So what do you do with the evaluation report your external evaluator prepared or all the great information in it?

1. Report evidence from your evaluation in the relevant sections of your annual report.

The Research.gov system for annual reports includes seven sections: Cover, Accomplishments, Products, Participants, Impact, Changes/Problems, and Special Requirements. Findings and conclusions from your evaluation should be reported in the Accomplishments and Impact sections, as described in the table below. Sometimes evaluation findings will point to a need for changes in project implementation or even its goals. In this case, pertinent evidence should be reported in the Changes/Problems section of the annual report. Highlight the most important evaluation findings and conclusions in these report sections. Refer to the full evaluation report for additional details (see Point 2 below).

NSF annual report section What to report from your evaluation
Accomplishments
  • Number of participants in various activities
  • Data related to participant engagement and satisfaction
  • Data related to the development and dissemination of products (Note: The Products section of the annual report is simply for listing products, not reporting evaluative information about them.)
Impacts
  • Evidence of the nature and magnitude of changes brought about by project activities, such as changes in individual knowledge, skills, attitudes, or behaviors or larger institutional, community, or workforce conditions
  • Evidence of increased participation by members of groups historically underrepresented in STEM
  • Evidence of the project’s contributions to the development of infrastructure that supports STEM education and research, including physical resources, such as labs and instruments; institutional policies; and enhanced access to scientific information
Changes/Problems
  • Evidence of shortcomings or opportunities that point to a need for substantial changes in the project

Do you have a logic model that delineates your project’s activities, outputs, and outcomes? Is your evaluation report organized around the elements in your logic model? If so, a straightforward rule of thumb is to follow that logic model structure and report evidence related to your project activities and outputs in the Accomplishments section and evidence related to your project outcomes in the Impacts section of your NSF annual report.

2. Upload your evaluation report.

Include your project’s most recent evaluation report as a supporting file in the Accomplishments or Impact section of Research.gov. If the report is longer than about 25 pages, make sure it includes a 1-3 page executive summary that highlights key results. Your NSF program officer is very interested in your evaluation results, but probably doesn’t have time to carefully read lengthy reports from all the projects he or she oversees.

Blog: Color Scripting to Measure Engagement

Posted on March 30, 2016 by  in Blog ()

President, iEval

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Last year I went to the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. This was a conference for Disney fans everywhere. I got to attend panels where I learned past Disney secrets and upcoming Disney plans. I went purely for myself, since I love Disney everything, and I never dreamed I would learn something that could be applicable to my evaluation practice.

In a session with John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Doctor, and others from Pixar, I learned about a technique created by Ralph Eggleston (who was there too) called color scripting. Color scripting is a type of story boarding, but Ralph would change the main colors of each panel to reflect the emotion the animated film was supposed to portray at that time. It helped the Pixar team understand what was going on in the film emotionally at a quick glance, and it also made it easier to create a musical score to enhance those emotions.

Then, a few weeks later, I was sitting in a large event for a client, observing from the back of the room. I started taking notes on the engagement and energy of the audience based on who was presenting. I created some metrics on the spot including number of people on their mobile devices, number of people leaving the event, laughter, murmuring, applause, etc. I thought I would create a simple chart with a timeline of the event, highlighting who was presenting at different times, and indicating if engagement was high/medium/low and if energy was high/medium/low. I quickly realized, when analyzing the data, that engagement and energy were 100% related. If engagement was high, then energy followed shortly as being high. So, instead of charting two dimensions, I really only needed to chart one: engagement & energy combined (see definitions of engagement and energy in the graphic below). That’s when it hit me – color scripting! Okay, I’m no artist like Ralph Eggleston, so I created a simple color scheme to use.

Graphic 1

In sharing this with the clients who put on the event, they could clearly see how the audience reacted to the various elements of the event. It was helpful in determining how to improve the event in the future. This was a quick and easy visual, made in Word, to illustrate the overall reactions of the audience.

I have since also applied this to a STEM project, color scripting how the teachers in a two-week professional development workshop felt at the end of each day based on one word they shared upon exiting the workshop each day. By mapping participant feelings in the different cohorts and comparing what and how things were taught each day, this resulted in thoughtful conversations with the trainers about how they want the participants to feel and what they need to change to match reality with intention.

Graphic 2

You never know where you’re going to learn a technique or tool that could be useful in your evaluation practice and useful to the client. Be open to learning everywhere you go.