Around the Institute

Squirrels and Goldfish and Unicorns, Oh my!

August 7, 2015  • Institute Contributor


Your summer reading list just got better
As our devoted readers know, we’ve had network analysis on the brain recently.

Thanks to Madeleine Taylor and Anne Whatley of Network Impact, and Julia Coffman at the Center for Evaluation Innovation, our brains are munching additional high-quality fodder. Check out their useful report on current approaches to network evaluation and case examples illustrating various methods, tools, and results. An excellent addition to our summer reading list, sez APEP. You’re welcome.


Give me back my attention!
Media measurement in the digital age is tricky bid-ness. Put another way: some of our media metrics du jour kinda suck (impressions, we’re looking at you). And, as this recent WNYC segment points out, advertisers’ favored metric of success – the amount of time they can coax our eyeballs to spend on their site, brand, apps, etc. – comes at a cost to our time, attention, and ability to focus. Note: our attention span does not compare well to that of a goldfish. So the challenge is twofold: we need metrics that are meaningful and that don’t undermine our ability to—squirrel!


Does measuring media impact require unicorns? Rainbows? Rainbow unicorns?
Nope. Or so Michelle Kosmicki tells us in a recent AEA365 blog post. But she does advise us to “get comfortable with squishy data” when it comes to evaluating media impact. We like her emphasis on “bringing all your media data together… it is no different than using a mixed methods approach.” Hear, hear. In our work evaluating media initiatives, we often go toe-to-toe with The Squishy, piecing together different sources of media data to try to answer larger learning questions about impact. The challenges are tough, but not insurmountable.

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