By Jill Iman, Ph.D., Joining Vision and Action

The American Evaluation Association’s 2016 conference theme was Evaluation + Design, focusing on how the integration of design into evaluation can strengthen programs, benefit the environment and improve the lives of people. For me, one of the most important takeaways was the reminder of the infinite and diverse uses of evaluation techniques—how evaluation is not only a piece of the puzzle that can tell you “how” or “what” you’ve done, but that it can be used to create programs, make meaningful recommendations and inform decision-making.

Inherent in this spectrum of uses for evaluation is the need to engage and partner with a range of stakeholders at all phases. Here at JVA, we are passionate and deliberate about doing this. Engagement is part of our DNA. But, we are always keeping an eye out for new and exciting ways to implement this approach. In this spirit, while running around AEA, I attended a talk facilitated by Learning for Action on the use of the data walk, a new concept for me.

data walkEssentially, a data walk is a process through which stakeholders are engaged in the interpretation of data and results. To conduct, stakeholders are convened for a session during which clear and concise results are visually displayed at various points around the room and are often coupled with specific, guiding questions for participant feedback (e.g., “does anything surprise you?”). Participants are put into small groups and paired with a facilitator to walk around the room and provide feedback, ultimately creating a fun and dynamic way to:

  • Improve analysis and interpretation
  • Empower stakeholders
  • Increase stakeholder buy-in

If you want to learn more, check out a recent report on data walks by the Urban Institute or give us a call to figure out how to incorporate a data walk into your evaluation approach.

What other unique and meaningful ways have you uncovered for interpreting and sharing data?


The Joining Vision and Action research and evaluation team prioritizes discovering and implementing the latest and greatest engagement strategies. To learn more about how you can better involve and learn from your community, and other data collection and analysis services, check out JVA’s full lineup of evaluation expertise.