So What?

Words, Numbers, Pictures, Puppies

May 27, 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


What’s in a word?
APEP loves words, but apparently not enough to qualify for this week’s Scripps National Spelling Bee. As evaluators, we pay close attention to the words influentials use to frame or describe issues. At AEA 2015, we discussed early stages of an attempt to assess the “quality” of key government officials’ public discourse on child marriage. HuffPost reports here on the use of the word “Islamophobia” – all too salient to the current political climate, and a phenomenon we’re examining for another client. Stay tuned for more.

The burden of (perceived) wealth and power
Evaluators don’t always feel powerful, especially when they are bidding for bizness. But we may well be perceived as powerful by evaluands – which can influence their response to us. A chance conversation at a prep meeting for the FeedbackLabs Summit on, well, feedback, led Daniel Honig of Johns Hopkins University to send this link to an intriguing study: the mere presence of a white person as a junior member of a research team in Sierra Leone led and staffed by black Sierra Leoneans influenced participant responses. As Honig commented, it’s sorta like the Heisenberg Principle: this act of observation changes what is observed.

Data beyond visualization?
We like data viz. We like smart data visualizers. And pretty pictures of the most majestic animals in all of nature. But here’s a fascinating piece from Nature about what happens when scientist have more data than they can reasonably viz.