My body needs a lot more rest these days (I'm sleepy now even after sleeping for 9 hours last night), so I struggled through most of the large group plenary sessions, dozing off a bit, but I can't say any of them really impressed me. I only made it to three (well sort of four) of the breakout sessions. The first one I went to was useless - the guy presented some alcohol data and told some stories about students dying for alcohol related reasons. I had gone in with the idea that he was going to present ways of using data to accomplish things, whether it be securing funding, evaluating program effectiveness, etc.
The second session was actually pretty solid, but not useful to me. They presented about the Indicators Handbook, and how some groups are making their own. Not really that different from our own Goals and Benchmarks, or the State of the State report that Public Health is preparing.
The third session I went to was an absolute waste of my time - it was supposed to be about data and presentation, so I went thinking I might learn something. Either people that work for non-profits have no experience with data presentation, or they're idiots. His main points included such basic things such as alway title your graphs and label your axes, make sure your graphs are showing what you want them to show, that the main ways to present data are scatter plots, bar graphs, and tables, and that graphical representations of data are beneficial as opposed to text only descriptions. Are you kidding me? I mean, I know I have an engineering background, and that we spend a lot of time learning how to write stuff that would go into scientific papers, but still, this was ridiculous. Of course, I lost respect for the speaker when he was saying that on the horizontal axis, you put the variable that doesn't change such as the year - and he said "I don't know the technical name for what you call it." I had to bite my tongue to not say that you but the independent variable on the horizontal, while the dependent goes on the vertical . . . The guy (who had a PhD) also went on to show us that tables are good, but you should probably highlight changes - i.e. if something decreases, you might show the final year in bold so that people can see how good the numbers are at the end. Do people really not know this kind of stuff?
I ditched out of that session a little early, and wandered over to one on getting true youth engagement. This presentation was pretty solid, as they practiced what they preached - they had youth presenting on what they were doing, and how they were active within their groups. Their model focused upon environmental change, and empowering teens to make this change. It seems their primary activity was Friday Night Live - providing healthy alternatives for teens on Friday night. The way they implemented this was awesome though, in that the teens had to go through a grant writing process to get money to fund the activities they wanted to fund. Adults were only involved to help out when the groups of teens needed it - in fact, they wouldn't even really help with the funding applications. The teens were responsible for getting the money, and then making everything else work. So damn cool.