The What, Why, and How of a ‘Data Party’…

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At HEI, our team of researchers loves an opportunity for participatory learning and intentional activities that involve making sense of data. Enter: the data party. At HEI we host data parties for clients, which yield game-changing insights and have led to decisions that help organizations fulfill their missions. Our clients love data parties nearly as much as we do–and yet, we know that a data party can still sound opaque or even daunting. Below, we’ve laid out the basics of a data party to answer frequently asked questions. If you would like to speak to us about this approach to learning, please CONTACT US.

What is a data party?

Also known as a data walk or participatory data analysis, a data party is a gathering of stakeholders to engage with data, sometimes before a final report. While a stand-alone report can sit on a shelf, skimmed by only a few, hosting a data party allows many stakeholders within an organization to come together as experts, unpacking what has occurred over the past year, rooted in data. A facilitator leads the group through a series of questions or exercises designed to align with the team or organization’s strategic goals. Through leveraging the collective wisdom of a group, insights are made and absorbed, greater understandings are created, analysis is refined for final publication or presentation, and a variety of voices are heard. We find that deep learning occurs in these convenings, and most are finished in the space of a morning or afternoon. 

Why host a data party? 

Data parties are a powerful way to harness the expertise and wisdom of stakeholders. They help to raise and give a platform for all voices, while also giving stakeholders an opportunity to feel ownership of program/organization decisions and actions. They are also an efficient and effective tool for refining a report or presentation and ensuring broad buy-in before official publication or exhibition.

Finally, data parties help to build internal capacity within a program to regularly engage with data beyond the party convening. Data fear or avoidance is often overcome as participants learn accessible tools and strategies for interacting with data in ways that impact and improve their work. Groups can have an “aha” moment recognizing that data is not an after-thought or a tangential entity that exists outside their purviews; rather, data is one of the best tools for continually learning and improving outputs day after day, quarter after quarter, year after year.

What does a data party consist of?

HEI coordinates data parties in which client staff members can engage with evaluation data, create easy-to-digest reports and presentations to share with the board and other key stakeholders, and assist clients in reviewing and revising their theory of change, logic model, and/or evaluation plan. Using facilitated techniques such as data placemats, think-pair-share, gallery walks, quadrant charts, and so forth, our data parties are fun, safe, and structured opportunities for program staff to engage actively with evaluation data and findings.

The group convened can be a small, intimate team or a larger forum-like gathering. The information examined can be both qualitative and quantitative. And yes–data parties are fun! Learning together and coalescing as a group often yields boosted morale, renewed commitment, and even a few laughs.

To learn more, please CONTACT US