Why I love SenseMaker®

I’ve written a lot of evaluation forms in my time.  And I’ve collected a lot of case studies.  These were almost always to satisfy the needs of funders and yet, they never felt very satisfying.  The case studies were chosen to tell a particular story, or make a particular point, and the evaluation forms could tell you more about lunch and parking arrangements than they could about anything to do with the event or activity.

Don’t get me wrong, lunch and parking are very important but they don’t tell you a great deal about whether a service is working, or how things could be improved.  Even when you ask that, people can’t often tell you, or they can, but they tell you that there should have been far less mayonnaise in the sandwiches.  Not entirely unhelpful, but not likely to lead to ground-breaking service development either. 

And this is why I love SenseMaker®!  You ask someone to tell you a story, and then they respond to some very straightforward questions that tell you more about their experience and its context – this also provides you with some stats.  I’ll blog more about the ins and outs of the structure of these another time but, for now, the most significant thing about SenseMaker® is that you don’t ask people to tell you how good or bad something was.  And you don’t ask them how something could be improved because, why should anyone know how to answer that question?

Instead, you ask people to do the thing that they love, you ask them to tell you a story, and then to tell you a bit about how they feel about that story.

For anyone who’s worked in the third sector, maybe who’s worked anywhere, you know that things are working because Jane’s said more than four words to someone for the first time since you met her, or because Bob has just gleefully regaled you with you a tale about something that happened last week, or because Eric, who didn’t really think he wanted to come along has now been there every time.

And with SenseMaker®, you can capture all that, and you can have the stats you need to spot the patterns in experiences to develop your next project around or identify a critical issue in your community, or to tell the funders, or yourself, that what you’re doing is working.  That’s why we’re using it on Measuring the Mountain, so that we can see the patterns in, and contexts of, experiences of social care, spot what could perhaps be done differently, and also spot what’s working really well. 

You can find out more about SenseMaker® on their website and I’ll be blogging about it over the coming weeks.