Have you seen the new images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Webb)?

For the first time ever, we are able to view galaxies that have never been seen before. We have a new perspective of the world, literally. Check out the GIF below to see a comparison of the new Webb images to the original Hubble images of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 (image source and credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI).

GIF of SMACS 0723 galaxy cluster images from the Webb and Hubble telescopes. Both images show orange, green, and purple dots and stars on a black background representing galaxies, but the Webb image has a new level of clarity and precision, showing galaxies that have never been seen before.

By viewing the same information through a different lens (telescope) or perspective, we experience the world in a new way.

We see a different level of detail, which presents new possibilities and questions. We begin to connect the dots and apply our learning across systems and contexts.

This lesson about perspective is not limited to astronomy, it is also very relevant to evaluation.

3 Ways to Consider New Perspectives

Below are 3 ways to consider new perspectives in your data and evaluation work:

Break Out Brainwriting

Brainwriting is a design-thinking strategy that gathers and organizes a lot of information and ideas from participants. Perfect for a more introverted group, a brainwriting session starts with introspection and individual thinking (compared to the more extroverted and verbal brainstorming process). 

During a brainwriting session:

    • Each person writes down three ideas that relate to the topic (about 5 minutes)
    • Pass your ideas to the person next to you
    • Add your input and ideas to the paper that you receive
    • Keep passing the papers around until everyone has reviewed each
    • Discuss, group, and prioritize the ideas as a group

If your team is collaborating virtually, you can adapt brainwriting by using Google Docs or Google Slides, where each person begins their ideas on a different page or slide, and then you cycle through to review and add ideas.

Put on the Six Thinking Hats

Developed by Edward de Bono, the Six Thinking Hats activity has participants explore ideas through six different areas:

    • Logic – what are the facts?
    • Optimism – what is the value and benefits?
    • Risks – what are the challenges?
    • Emotions – what are the feelings and intuitions?
    • Creativity – what are the possibilities?
    • Management – what rules have to be followed?

Each participating team member dons one of the six hats (perspectives) during the discussion. If you have more than six team members, you could organize mini groups for each of the perspectives. For example, the person (or small group) wearing the creativity hat will approach the conversation by highlighting possibilities.

As an adaptation to the original activity, you may choose to have some team members participate as observers to notice and offer reflections about what themes, questions, and new perspectives are emerging throughout the discussion.

Host a Data Walk

A data walk is an interactive presentation of data, which allows partners (e.g. evaluators, staff, policymakers, funders, program recipients, community members) to engage with and dialogue around information.

During a data walk, attendees rotate through stations in a room (or different Zoom rooms or slides, if virtual) to view pre-selected graphs, images, and/or statistics. At each station, attendees share ideas and responses to discussion questions within their small group. After cycling through all rotations, attendees reconvene for a facilitated large-group discussion. 

Data walks provide attendees with opportunities to:

    • Build data literacy and evaluation capacity
    • Create dialogue among diverse partners
    • Develop new questions and insights related to the information
    • Elevate the voices of community members
    • Engage in collective problem-solving and advocacy
    • Foster a sense of community and shared experience
    • Unearth potential biases present in the evaluation process

Urban Institute’s guide is an excellent resource for designing, planning, and facilitating a data walk.

Your Turn

How are you incorporating new perspectives into your data, evaluation, and strategy work?