There are a million possible questions to answer when it comes to designing, managing and learning from a collaboration. It can be a little daunting to start. This is the second of a 3-part series on some of the big questions to address that will make the process a little clearer. These questions are the collaborative effort of Heather Bryant, Stefanie Murray and Nasr ul Hadi.
Congratulations, you’re at the point where a project has reached completion or an inflection point and it’s time to really think about what’s worked and what’s not and turn that information into actionable lessons. Here are a few questions to guide the process of either a post-project evaluation or a check-in during the project.
1. How will your organization reflect on and assess the collaboration afterward?
Whether it’s having each partner go through a post-project checklist and contribute their engagement metrics, observations and feedback they’ve received or doing a roundtable discussion to do so as a group, now’s the time to formulate some observations and conclusions about the project.
2. Did a collaborative approach help you achieve the impact you set out to make?
It’s important to think about which parts of the project were absolutely dependent on the collaboration so you can figure out when and how collaboration works best for your organization.
3. Did you meet the goals originally set out for the project?
Taking a look at the original set of goals established for the project and think about what worked and what didn’t and which things occurred that you might not have previously thought to measure but turned out to be important.
4. Would you collaborate with those partners again and why or why not?
Many newsrooms compare collaboration to dating and eventually getting married, which means there are going to be times when all the partners are lovely but there’s just not the right chemistry. Reflect on which partners were part of a good working experience and which ones may need improvement or are just not compatible with your organization when it comes to future projects. Consider as well if there is any part of this that would be possible to pass along as constructive feedback.
5. What did your team do well or where did you fall short? Are there things you could do to be a better collaborative partner?
On the dating note, there are more and more collaborative fish in the sea every day and your organization will have strengths and weakness like any other. Think about where your team shines and what are the things you’ll need to pay special attention to next time so that organizations will want to continue to work with yours.
6. What parts of the communication plan worked or didn’t work?
Whether it was the frequency, redundancy, the engagement of the team or platform, improving communication is important, making this assessment point a critical part of a post-project evaluation (or regular checkin if the project is ongoing.)
7. What surprises happened during the collaboration that affected the project?
It’s impossible to plan for everything making it important to track the things that were never on paper. Did you get an unexpected reaction or engagement from audiences? Did the collaboration improve reporting in some unforeseen way or did your team gain an unexpected value from the process? This is great information for post-collaboration documentation and valuable lessons to share with other newsrooms.
8. How did the participants feel about the experience? Is there feedback you can collect from the team members?
Surveying participants on the production side will help you collect feedback about what worked, what didn’t, what was hard and what made sense. Collaborating is a continuous process that’s constantly being tweaked. Collecting feedback will help you make the right adjustments on the path toward a process that works for your organization and your partners.
9. How can you survey your audiences or measure audience engagement to gauge sentiment about the project?
Given the challenges journalism is facing — especially with audience trust — collecting information from your audiences on how collaborating impacted them is valuable data about the opportunities for collaboration to address some of those challenges.
10. What and where can this information be filed so that future collaborations can benefit from knowing what’s been done before?
If you have an incredibly successful project or one that falls apart, if a few years pass and churn has folks moving on, it would be really unfortunate if your organization repeats the same mistakes or misses out on the keys to your previous success. If you want to do one better than recording this information just for your own newsroom, write up a case study to share with everyone so the entire collaborative journalism community can benefit from what you’ve learned.
Each of these questions can be explored further depending on how much detail you want to capture about your project. However, even short answers to these questions can help with the minimum data points. Have a suggestion for additional details for this part? Feel free to jump in the comments below.
About the Authors:
Heather Bryant is a journalist, software developer and the founder and director of Project Facet, an open source infrastructure project that supports newsrooms in managing the logistics of creating, editing and distributing content, managing projects and facilitating collaborative relationships. She spent last year studying collaboration between newsrooms as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford. Prior to that, she worked in public media in Alaska.
Stefanie Murray is the Director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. The Center is supported with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Democracy Fund. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents.
Nasr Ul Hadi works with the Int’l Center for Journalists (ICFJ) as a Knight Fellow in India. He leads a team of editorial, multimedia, product and engineering consultants, driving innovation experiments in story, product, workflow and/or business models, across print, broadcast and digital news media. He also teaches digital storytelling at a few graduate schools, and co-manages the local chapters of Hacks/Hackers.