Assessing Impact of Media

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New Learning Brief from FSG Lays Down Next Gen Evaluation Gauntlet

Shares, hits, friends, likes — these are now the everyday currency of media makers seeking to engage communities. But what methods can transcend these transactional metrics to reveal deeper social impact?

Next Generation Evaluation: Embracing Complexity, Connectivity and, Change, released by consulting firm FSG in September, offers answers and raises questions in equal measure.

Co-authored by Srik Gopalakrishnan, Hallie Preskill, and SJ Lu, this “learning brief” proposes three “game changing” approaches to evaluation:

  • Developmental Evaluation—an approach designed to support real-time development of experimental projects, with a focus on providing insightful feedback and shifting the role of the evaluator from outside observer to co-creator of meaning.
  • Shared Measurement—an approach which brings together peer organizations that share a mission to collaboratively develop outcomes, indicators, and evaluation infrastructure.
  • Big Data—an approach that the authors say is characterized by the “3 Vs – sheer volume, greater variety, and increased velocity” of data about usage, sharing, platforms and more, with the potential to destabilize existing metrics schemes that rely on sampling and qualitative analysis.

These are provocative observations for those in the still-fragmented field of media assessment. Key players in the fields of journalism, documentary and public are still struggling to arrive at common definitions of their work, never mind agreeing on shared indicators. Delving into developmental evaluation first requires a clear understanding of more traditional forms of evaluation designed to track success of legacy productions. And crunching “big data” can require not only big computers, but sometimes big dollars to arrive at meaningful results.

FSG has identified a trio of challenges worth tackling. Keep an eye on our research page for further insights on these and other approaches.