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Data are only useful when used! They do no good buried in reports, sitting on shelves (or shared drives) hidden away. Data, particularly data from an evaluation, are begging to be discussed, contemplated, and put into action!
Let’s chat about some ways to make sure your data are used. One place to start is to think about why an evaluation was conducted to begin with. Evaluations can serve many purposes – check out these 10 reasons to evaluate. If you can articulate why an evaluation was conducted, you can review your data with a focused lens.
Another place to look is to explore your program goals, objectives, or intended outcomes and see how your data can help you to meet them or speak to them. Or perhaps you have targets or Key Performance Indicators that will help to frame your review of the data. It goes without saying that your data should be answering your evaluation questions, but still, this isn’t helping the move into the “now what” phase of an evaluation.
One important step is to put together an engaged and passionate team of representatives from across your organization, like described here: Three Ways to Increase the Chances your Evaluation Results will Actually Get Used. This team can help to interpret the data (often called sense-making) and can help to identify actions that can be taken on data. They can also help build organizational engagement and spread key messages.
Once you have your dream team, check out our new list of reflective questions that can help to uncover new insights buried in your data.
Trying to answer all of the questions in this checklist will be too many to tackle at once. But pulling out, say, 5 can get some discussion started. I’ve often used these questions in my sense-making sessions or even final presentations to stakeholder audiences to get them talking about the data and really thinking about what it means.
Of course, talking about the data assume that your data are high quality and presented in a way that your audience can learn from them. Here are some final tips to make sure your data are working for you: From Data to Actionable Insights