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Archive for the ‘Evaluation Institute’ Category

Marques Hogans Sr. is working with IMPACT Planning Council through a partnership with the American Evaluation Association (AEA) called “GEDI”.  As part of his internship, he not only works on a variety of evaluation projects with IMPACT staff, he also attends national conventions and AEA trainings with a cohort of interns placed at agencies across the US.

Another destination in the books and the experience of being a GEDI is beginning to sink in.  The week of November 9th thru 14th, Evaluation 2015 took place in the Windy City, Chicago, IL.   Once again I was surrounded by professionals who value the work of evaluation and its importance as it applies to everyday life.  As I was hours removed from surgery for a torn right Achilles the day I arrived, I was more focused on who, what, when, and where, why, and how.  Who would I meet that would have an impact on my career, what would I learn that I could apply now or later, when does the rest of my cohort arrive, where did I need to check in for the conference, why was the hotel, Hyatt Regency Chicago, so BIG, and how was I going to get around on my knee scooter (laughing literally).

Most of those questions andMarques AEA many more were answered.  After a day of pre-conference workshops my GEDI cohort was introduced to an assembly of evaluation leaders, professionals, and students; at this it sunk in: I was part of something big.  As a member of a program centered on Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE) and diversifying the evaluation workforce, this opportunity was one to be cherished and not taken for granted.  The American Evaluation Association deemed 2015 the “International Year or Evaluation” and the conference portrayed just that.  Attendees traveled from across the globe, including Asia, Europe, and the West Indies.  At Evaluation 2015 some workshops confirmed information I had learned from my public health background while others confirmed and answered thoughts, opinions, and questions surrounding evaluation.  I was eager to take as much in as possible.

While my time at Evaluation 15 was short lived due to other obligations, its impact remains.  One of my interests in evaluation is its impact on policy change.  Not too long ago I came across an article which led me to think deeply about how policy affects behavior.  At Evaluation 2015 I was able to attend a workshop on that topic and honestly it was one of my most memorable experiences.  This workshop in particular focused on studies completed in 4 countries outside of the US; Switzerland, Taiwan, Sweden, and Trinidad and Tobago of the West Indies.   The gentleman from Sweden stated, “Evaluations are interventions with unintended outcomes” while explaining the content of his study.  Although their initial hypothesis went unanswered, due to the unintended outcomes represented, policy change occurred five years later.  So while impact may not happen that instant, who is to say when your efforts will become invaluable.

Finally, as a student the one thing I feared most was my ability to transition from writing academically to writing in a professional capacity.  I ran into Professor Tok, an instructor at John Hopkins who serves as mentor to a colleague of mine.  I expressed to her my concern with my writing skill.  She then went on to state, “You have made it this far, so it is not as bad as you may think, just continue to write”.  Simple words with big meaning.

I cannot wait until the next opportunity to learn more from the “Who’s who?” in evaluation in the near future. We will be visiting the UCLA Graduate School in Education and Information Science and Harder, a frontrunner in evaluation, in early February.

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Milwaukee County Poverty in 2012 by Census tract

My name is Jeff Zongolowicz and I am currently a senior at Marquette University and will be graduating in May with degrees in Social Welfare and Justice and Economics.  Over the past few months I have had the great experience of interning for the IMPACT Planning Council.  I decided to intern at IMPACT Planning Council after a professor of mine told me about the opportunity; I realized that it would be a great opportunity to be able to apply both my economics and social welfare and justice backgrounds to real world issues.

During my internship, I have gained valuable experience in data collection and analysis, mapping, focus groups, and some technical writing.  I worked extensively with Census data for the Milwaukee area and compiled data sets that will be useful for a wide variety of projects in the future. The data has been especially useful in creating maps (such as the one displayed here) of Milwaukee that provide valuable insight into the areas of the city where resources should be invested.   The census data I analyzed is being used for several projects already:

  • Evaluation of the Summer Reading project
  • Analysis of demand surrounding several commercial corridors
  • Sharing data with a funder who is looking to see geographically whether their grants are effecting the lower income areas in the city of Milwaukee

One project I have worked extensively on is with LISC, and preparing demographic data surrounding several commercial corridors in Milwaukee. The goal of the LISC Corridor project is to support economic growth in several corridors around Milwaukee.  The project has been interesting because the corridors have a wide variety of economic characteristics. Some are located in high income areas and others in low income areas. They vary greatly in their size and number of businesses.  The differences create a range of unique challenges that each corridor must overcome to achieve economic growth and sustainability.

My main contribution to the Corridor project has been a market analysis for several Business Improvement Districts (BIDS)  and business corridors around Milwaukee.  We combined data from the American Community Survey and Census to calculate the demand for goods and services in each neighborhood surrounding the commercial corridors, as well as the supply of those goods and services in each BID and corridor. After that data was calculated a supply-demand gap analysis was done to determine which types of new businesses each BID has the capacity to support.

In addition to working with large pools of data, I also had the opportunity to collect information directly from people by being able attend a focus group as a note taker. This allowed me to add variety to the role I have had as an intern and also gave me the opportunity to work with some qualitative data in addition quantitative data that has been my focus.  The focus group was conducted for Children’s Hospital which focuses on health in Milwaukee Public schools.  The experience allowed me to better understand the value of qualitative data.  Without the qualitative data gained from these focus groups it becomes easy to misinterpret the quantitative data.  Often times outliers in quantitative data can be easily attributed to something found in the qualitative data, however, if the qualitative data isn’t available the outliers can be wrongly attributed to incorrect causes.

As a whole my internship experience at IMPACT has been valuable in developing my skills and giving me insight into the type of work I would like to do following graduation.  Through my internship here I have become interested in the field of evaluation and come to appreciate its value in promoting efficient and valuable outcomes in communities. I have especially enjoyed the variety of work I have been able to do which has allowed me to gain a feel for the unique range of challenges in the evaluation field.

As my time at IMPACT comes to an end I am excited to continue pursuing a future in the evaluation industry and I expect my experiences here at IMPACT will prove valuable going forward.  I hope to be able to continue to work with communities in the future to be able to promote outcomes that are beneficial to the long-term future of everyone involved.

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Mapping training attendees

Clockwise from upper left: Kerry Thomas, Matt Schumwinger, Aaron Bergtrom, Bob Waite and Amy Schlotthauer.

On March 26th, 2014 Virginia Carlson of the Public Policy Forum and Matt Schumwinger of Big Lake Data LLC presented an intensive one-and-a-half hour training on Tilemill here at the IMPACT Planning Council offices. . Tilemill is a free downloadable tool used to edit Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). If that is a confusing sentence to read, you would have felt right at home with the training group, over half of whom had never coded.  After an excellent presentation, attendees left the training with a homework assignment to try the tool out using their agency’s data.

Two weeks after the training, attendees returned for a discussion and the opportunity to share maps. Several of the group members had successfully created a map, and most people came back with questions.  The group spent the second meeting discussing the maps that had been created by attendees, sharing frustrations, exploring solutions and celebrating successes.  Virginia and Matt went through step-by-step solutions to problems brought up by participants.

Top lessons learned from the group:

  1. Working with CSS code is tricky.
  2. Working with CSS code means you can do almost ANYTHING you can think of to your map.
  3. Data clean-up usually takes longer than creating a map.
  4. Learning as a group makes it clear that several people hit the same stumbling blocks, and can help each another overcome them.

Ticket density map

Above is a map created by Matt Schumwinger, Big Lake Data LLC, on Tilemill, using a random sample of parking tickets issued in Milwaukee and mapping them in yellow.  The brighter the spots, the more parking tickets were issued at that location.

After the training, a short survey was sent to attendees. All of the respondents “Strongly Agreed”or “Agreed” that the training:

  • Will help them to create better maps;
  • Expanded their familiarity with data visualization; and
  • Will be useful in expanding their agency’s capacity to produce and share information.

The Tilemill training was part of the Evaluation Institute of IMPACT Planning Council, funded by the Faye McBeath Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Foley Family Foundation and LISC. The Evaluation Institute builds the capacity of local agencies to use evaluation to strengthen outcomes. Data visualization has been a particular focus, kicked off by Cole Nussbaumer’s Storytelling With Data Workshop last October.

Do you have any Tilemill tips to share? We’d love to hear them!

 

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