So What?

Summer Flicks and Tech Toys

July 22, 2016  • Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program

“So What?” – Your BI-Weekly Guide to Advocacy With Impact

Lovingly selected and lightly snarked by Team APEP: David Devlin-Foltz, Susanna Dilliplane, and Alex Gabriel


Movies that move us

Whether you prefer amnesiac fish, Harry Potter-turned-flatulent-corpse, or ghostbusting gals, there’s a good chance you’ll watch a flick or two this summer. But some films have a higher purpose than pitting Superman against Batman. Courtesy of the Pelican Initiative, here are examples of how film is being used to advance social change in development contexts. And check out Spitfire’s new AndACTION site, designed to help nonprofits leverage upcoming film and TV stories relevant to their cause. And what about evaluating film’s impact, you say? USC’s Norman Lear Center just released its study of Food Inc.’s impact. And APEP is partnering with a client to pilot digital tools that help capture impacts of a documentary film-based campaign – stayed tuned to hear what we learn!


The tech toy box

Speaking of fancy new digital tools – they are all the rage these days. We can leverage a “gig economy platform” like Mturk, enable program participants in Rwanda to analyze their own stories, or use mHealth apps as a job aid and monitoring tool for frontline health workers in Africa and South Asia. But for some of us, Tech Talk ain’t a language we’ve totally mastered yet. And it’s not a given that tech is always the right choice. Recognizing this, Tufts University’s Fletcher School released this working paper, setting out a useful “decision filter” to help evaluators think about when and what kind of tech might be appropriate.


The measure matters

Here’s one for all you methods geeks (hint: if you think this is funny, you probably qualify). Last December, President Obama signed a new education law aspirationally called the Every Student Succeeds Act. In a recent letter to the US Dept. of Education, Morgan Polikoff at USC’s Rossier School of Education argues against using proficiency rates as the mandated indicator of school performance. His observations about this metric’s built-in performance incentives and penalties are a good reminder of how a metric can actually influence – not just measure – an outcome.