Evaluation processes

June 4th, 2008

Yesterday I facilitated a workshop about participatory evaluation for some folk working towards healthy communities. Here’s some of the processes I used.

Visual Explorer: using photos to elicit people’s thoughts and insights about a particular topic

The Story Spine: a story framework to help people tell stories about their experiences

Full Circle: an active process to collect data from a lot of people in a short amount of time

35: A card swapping activity where the group-generated data is ranked

Sociometry is a process for measuring individual relationships within a group. There are two common forms of sociometry – category sociometry (also called chunking) and continuums (also called a line-up)


Officially a fan of social networking

February 10th, 2008

As of today (for no particular reason) I’m now officially a fan of social networking. When the Applied Improv group moved it’s web presence to ning I started to understand the potential of social networking. Since then I’ve set up four social networking sites of my own using CollectiveX – initially to play around and see how they work, and more recently as a part of my facilitation practice.


For the uninitiated, I think the benefits are:

1. Having all the discussions and other relevant info for a particular group available in the one location. This makes it easy to keep track of discussions around a particular topic or with a particular group without having to dredge through a whole bunch of emails.

2. Opportunity to have links to web sites, videos etc and to upload documents, and have discussion threads that are easy to opt in and out of.

3. Potential for warming up a group to an event, post activity evaluation, and continuing discussions. Enables transitions.

4. An opportunity to build community amongst a diverse group of people who nonetheless share a common interest, for example users of Open Space Technology.

5. I get email alerts of any activity so I don’t have to remember to check all the time to see if anything new is there. And I can manage my settings to get those alerts in a way that suits me.

6. When I log on to CollectiveX it lists all of my sites in a summary bar – makes it really easy to keep track of all my groups.

7. It’s free.

I’m not yet a fan of wiki sites – and the jury is still out on Twitter, but stay tuned.

The Web’s Secrets

January 9th, 2008

This TED talk by Jonathan Harris brings together technology, story, social science, evaluation, art and is entertaining to boot.

Evaluation of facilitation

November 2nd, 2007

My friend Andrew Rixon asked the Australasian Facilitators’ Network a question about the myths of facilitation. You can read what emerged here.

One of my throw-away suggestions amongst some other myths I’d suggested was that ‘it’s possible to evaluate a facilitated workshop (or a facilitator even) with an end-of-workshop survey aka happy sheet’. It was more of a response to some feedback I’d received from a particularly difficult facilitation event where – shock horror! – some people hadn’t enjoyed it. Apart from the fact that I didn’t realise facilitation was a popularity contest, the impacts of facilitation are rarely realised during the event. It’s the ongoing impact that interests me more. Anyway, that’s what was behind my myth comment.

Lo and behold it created a tsunami of comments. Andrew and I were talking about it today and I reckon he threw a hand granade and he reckons I pulled the pin! I guess we’re both partly responsible for starting something, although I’ve resisted any urges to buy in to the ongoing discussion; mainly because, while all this was unfolding, I was actually training some facilitation types in participatory evaluation.

So what’s my take on evaluation of facilitation? I strongly believe that ‘happy sheets’ at the end of a workshop are a waste of time. Everyone knows (including me) if it’s been successful or not – whatever success means. If a cleint wants me to evaluate people’s experience I can do that in a far more active and participatory way than filling in a form. The very best evaluations are unintended – meeting someone months (or even years) after a workshop and hearing that something done then has had an ongoing impact; has influenced the way people work or interact or is indeed, just memorable.

And any facilitator worth their salt is going to use their skills as a facilitator to evaluate – not just at the end of an event, but all the way through. That’s what we do! We respond, in the moment to the needs of the group, constantly evaluating what’s happening and making micro-adjustments. For me, facilitation and participatory evaluation just go hand-in-hand.

Volunteering & Complexity & Story

August 20th, 2007

Over the last couple of years I’ve been working with Victorian local and State Governments on the future of volunteering – so this project on the Future of Volunteering looks interesting. Not the least because it’s using narrative research processes, tools and proprietary software Sensemaker TM developed by Cognitive Edge to explore an issue of critical public policy.

What are they exploring?
Is volunteering a doomed activity? Where will the volunteers of the future come from? What will motivate them? What might volunteering look like in the future? What forms might volunteering take (eg corporate volunteering, time-limited or project-based etc)?

The key objectives of the project are to develop an understanding of policy issues and implications given the changes in demographics and patterns of volunteering, as well as guidance for those organisations funding and managing volunteers. The initial focus is New South Wales; however there is already interest from other states and countries to replicate the project.

Any organisation or individual with experience in volunteering or managing volunteers is encouraged to participate in this programme. The more stories we are able to collect, the greater the pool of stories that can be used to identify themes and patterns around volunteering.

Visit the survey website for more info or to take part.

Project scope
This is the first government funded project using Cognitive Edge approaches to address a social issue, where the information collected will be available in the public arena. While there is significant interest from other states, countries and sectors, the initial focus will be

• The community care sector – volunteers, their managing organisations, funders and policy makers
• In NSW

The project will capture thousands of stories about volunteering from volunteers, managers of volunteers and policy makers. The new SenseMaker software will enable researchers and policy makers to access these stories directly in large numbers and examine themes and patterns.

Qualitative Wisdom

July 17th, 2007

This is worth checking out.