Last week the Knowledge Brokers’ Forum listserv included a post by Maya Indira Ganesh about a new book called Visualising Information for Advocacy written by Tactical Technology Collective. Tactical Tech is an international NGO based in Germany and India; its mission is:
To advance the skills, tools and techniques of rights advocates, empowering them to use information and communications to help marginalised communities understand and effect progressive social, environmental and political change.
The book is available for free for non-profits in exchange for promotion through an event, blog post or book review. I made the request for the book and eagerly dove into it when it arrived, and began to think about ways to repay Tactical Tech. I took notes as I usually do when tasked with an assignment but soon realized a traditional text-based promotion of the book would not do it justice. Instead I wanted to visually represent how the lessons in the book would be useful to the K4Health Blog’s audience. One of the key ingredients would have to be the telling of a story.
In a recent K4Health post on data visualization, Erica Nybro and Libby Skolnik discuss the importance of developing a narrative.
If our informal working group had one shared conclusion, it was this: data visualization relies, first and foremost, on identifying your story and understanding your audience. Putting a spreadsheet of data into Excel and pushing the “bar chart” icon does not tell a story. It is not enough to send a report full of tables to a graphic designer and expect a meaningful infographic to emerge. It is our job, as health researchers and communicators, to first examine our data, and identify the surprises, the patterns, or trends.
Visualising Information for Advocacy supports this conclusion and provides examples of effective campaigns and the steps to build your own. While I am not setting out to foster large scale social change, I am trying to raise your awareness about the book. I bounced ideas off co-workers and thought about how to visually convey the book’s message to you. As I experimented, I wasn’t sold on the usefulness of a visual representation and thought about abandoning the idea. I went so far as to think that it would be quicker and easier to end this post with a message that a visual representation wasn’t right for this message, or that I tried and failed. In the end, I took advice from the book and came up with the cartoon below.