So What?

Media Metrics and Desquishification

June 5, 2015  • Institute Contributor

Is this a good question?

As evaluators, most of us have used surveys in our work. But even the most expert struggle to know: what makes a good survey question GOOD? Answering “I know it when I see it” isn’t all that helpful. So evaluators Sheila B. Robinson and Kim Firth Leonard tackle this question in a series of excellent blog posts highlighting helpful resources and tips (including this and this) on how to write good survey questions. We especially like this one: when writing a survey question, ask yourself – “So, what if someone answers ‘yes’ to this? So what? Does that really tell you anything?”


Heady times in media funding (and evaluation)

Foundations have done a wee bit of media-related grantmaking recently – $1.86 billion worth of it in 2009-2011, to be precise. So how do funders assess media impact? Well, Media Impact Funders conducted this study. Two big challenges (or opportunities?):  “lack of consensus about what constitutes ‘impact;’” and “lack of clarity about methods/measures within the media field.” Is there any evidence base about “what works”? Here’s a start: Communications Strategies That Fast Track Policy Change offers a snazzy top-ten list of strategies and illustrative case studies.


Adapt or…

APEP spends much of our time assessing “squishy” things: changes within complex systems that refuse to sit still for nice, sustained evaluation study. Policy change. Leadership skills. Empowerment. We are not alone. Our admirable pals at Spark Policy Institute offer a new toolkit full of helpful approaches for evaluators entering this fascinating topography. They call it Adaptive Planning. We call it de-squishification.®




The Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program helps leading foundations and nonprofit organizations plan, assess and learn from their efforts to promote changes in  knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and policies in the US and internationally.  To learn more about our tools and services, visit