Skip to main content

Increase Stakeholder Engagement Through Data Parties

Increase Stakeholder Engagement Through Data Parties

By Eleanor Hayden | August 8, 2019
Research Assistant, ETR

Have you ever wanted to increase stakeholder engagement in your research? Or introduce participatory data analysis to your work? If you have, a data party might be for you!

I recently attended a webinar on data parties presented by Kylie Hutchinson at Community Solutions Planning & Evaluation. I learned how to host a data party as well as the potential benefits they can provide to everyone involved, from researchers to evaluators to community stakeholders.

Here are some key take-homes.

What Is a Data Party? Who Attends and Why?

A data party is a gathering that happens early in the research process, after completion of the preliminary analysis but before the final report has been written. It’s an opportunity to engage stakeholders, research subjects, those with lived experiences, and community members in the process of developing consensus on conclusions, which leads to better programming and policies, and increases buy-in and people’s ownership and understanding of the data.

Reasons for Holding a Data Party: Evaluator’s Perspective

Data parties are a way of bringing participatory data analysis into a project. They increase community and stakeholder engagement. Depending on the type of evaluation being done, they can sometimes also provide evaluators a better sense of how to proceed from the preliminary analysis to final report. Input from data party attendees can help bring stakeholder views of the data to light, confirm findings, and assist with interpretation of any unexpected or unexplained patterns. Taken together, this can all support the development of more useful recommendations and conclusions.

Options for Hosting and Ways of Engaging Stakeholders

  • Host in-person or online. Data parties can be held in person. They can also be held online using a combination of apps to enable video chatting, Q&A sessions, and viewing of data in placemats or interactive dashboards. The key to presenting data is to include only the most notable and important findings so you don’t overwhelm participants. Hutchison also recommended using color, keeping text to bullet points rather than prose, and providing space for comments.
  • Facilitate to increase involvement. When holding an in-person data party, many facilitation strategies can increase attendees’ involvement with the data. One technique involves asking attendees to rank the preliminary conclusions in terms of what they found most important or intriguing. By sharing their rankings, they have the opportunity to inform evaluators about what they’re interested in and what their priorities are. This can be represented visually by building human histograms where people line up behind their chosen topic, or creating Post-it histograms on a wall or whiteboard.

Another activity that helps attendees interact and think through the data is to give half the room “questions” or topics, and the other half the “answers” (i.e., the statistics or graphs), and then have everyone try to find their correct match.

  • Action planning is crucial. It’s important to budget some time for action planning at the end of the data party in order to maintain momentum. The conclusions and ideas that people have reached may be neglected if there isn’t a plan about how to take these items into consideration and determine how enact them. The research team can meet after the data party, consolidate all participants’ input, develop a strategy for moving forward, and assign actionable to-do list items to individuals. This will maximize the data party’s capacity for positive change and growth. This step is crucial for ensuring that everyone’s concerns are addressed and that your research is oriented towards the needs of the community.

Bringing Value to the Research Process

Data parties can be a valuable part of the research process, particularly for youth-oriented research and other research that’s focused on populations whose needs can be overlooked. Data parties are a great way of engaging with the subjects of your research and making your findings accessible to them, and they provide a structured space for their input. By creating a venue for discussion and collaboration between researchers and research subjects, both sides can truly benefit from each other’s insights. I hope to see more people taking these kinds of steps to build better stakeholder engagement. I recommend Kylie Hutchinson’s webinar for anyone who is interested in learning more about this kind of participatory engagement in research.

Eleanor Hayden is a Research Assistant at ETR. Her academic interests include public health and medical sociology. She can be reached at


Sign up for the ETR Health Newsletter.

Social Media :

  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram