Visual Aid for the Story-based Program Evaluation Method
Through the use of computer-generated maps, Maxson offers an innovative tool and visual aid for story-based program evaluation (similar to a word tree or tree map). Driven by an analysis of text, these maps show the “overlap between how an organization describes itself (to donors) and how storytellers describe the organization or some relevant social problem.” Most importantly, what these visual aids reveal is that some “donor communications have little in common with project beneficiary stories.” Social change organizations could use this visual mapping exercise to understand how their purposes and goals align or misalign with their constituents and their understanding of a complex social issue. Maxson analyzes stories from several organizations, which yield unique mapping examples, each with slightly different spreads and overlapping text usage. At the end of this piece, Maxson states why he finds wordtree maps useful in evaluation. He suggests that wordtree maps provide actionable information, instant feedback, and are easier to interpret than other forms of data communication. Also, they can be used to compare any two groups of narratives and allow beneficiaries to contribute to complex issues. Marc Maxson is a PhD neuroscientist who helps coordinate the GlobalGiving Storytelling project in East Africa, a monitoring and evaluation experiment that aims to provide all organizations with a richer, complex view of the communities they serve. This piece came from his blog, ChewyChunks, where Maxson writes about ideas that fall in the cracks between science, education, and social innovation.