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Making sense of data or analysis paralysis?

In this blog Steven Marwick talks about the challenges of analysing evaluation feedback and asks what sort of support you need to do more advanced analysis on your data.

You are feeling pleased with yourself.  You’ve really cracked this evaluation malarkey.  You have simple evaluation tools in place.  Your service users have actually used your tools to give you feedback – meaningful qualitative feedback about impact not just “yes/no” or boring numbers.


Except … now you have to make sense of it all.  You have a cupboard full of body maps.  Piles of post-its.  A feedback box full of stories.  You want to use it but what does it all mean?

Of course, you can pull out a few quotes and you can always fall back on that inspiring case study from your star service user. 

But that’s not really enough is it?  You want to understand fully the difference you’ve made to everyone and you need to write a report for your board and your funder.  Help!

At ESS, we are currently developing our next strategic plan and we are reflecting on the new or improved services we should offer in future.  We get great feedback about the methods and tools that we help third sector organisations use and adapt.  However, we are seeing demand for more support around analysis.  Our basic guides and workshops work for many people.  But some of our stakeholders tell us they would like more in-depth help to code data and undertake sophisticated analysis of their qualitative evidence so they can understand and report on impact with confidence.  This doesn’t just apply to third sector organisations.  Some funders would like help analysing the reports they receive and identifying learning across a range of funded projects.

So we are wondering what more advanced analysis support might look like.  Is it a guide with a step-by-step approach to making sense of different types of data?  Is more hands on support required?  Could you “bring your data” to a workshop and be supported to make sense of it?  Should we run a more technical workshop on coding and thematic analysis techniques?

FeedbackPlease email us with your views.