Responsible data storytelling index of resources

From Responsible Data Wiki
Revision as of 13:16, 14 March 2015 by Beatrice Martini (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

What is Storytelling

Storytelling as political action

Personal and collective stories are a key element of knowledge, and as such can fuel evidence and empowerment. They can make issues of injustice, exclusion, democracy and human rights tangible and relatable. They can also contribute to personal and political transformation, democracy and social justice.

When shared by the protagonists, stories can help the narrators going through their experiences in a way they might have not expected, which can even be truly transformative of their own perception of what they lived.

When heard by people not directly involved in the story, they can help communicate problems and challenges they might not have experienced personally. Stories don’t offer answers, but they can inform listeners’ understanding and agency as active members of their society.

Stories powered by data for justice and rights

Stories are much more than content to be consumed out of curiosity (although that is surely not a negative nor ineffective way to use them). They can communicate facts and truth, as sharply as we are able to make them speak (through data, visualizations, numbers, relatable examples and accessible format and language). They can inform and drive the actions of the actors influencing the societal engine at different levels, from policy makers to citizens, voters, media outlets and protesters.

Responsible Data Storytelling: why and how?

Capacity builders, campaigners, activists and journalists working to support critical social justice and human rights issues can find a key ally in storytelling, especially when built on data. It can help individuals and groups living in marginalised and vulnerable communities allowing for their voices to be heard, their struggle to be visible. Promoting values of social justice and rights, stories can also become an active element of the process of social change.

But as practitioners working in such scenarios, we have to be carefully and responsibly aware of our role as part of the overall context. We should always:

  • (as learned from The Art of War): know our assets; know the adversary; know the terrain. Mapping out the ecosystem of the context we work with can help understand where is the power, how does it work – and if we want our work to help a shift in the existing power dynamics;
  • be very intentional about what we are trying to accomplish with the story. What is the overall goal (e.g. a campaign goal or a journalistic viewpoint), and how does this illuminate the facts?
  • make sure the project/ story would not cause harm to anyone (the people collecting or owning the data, the individuals whose data would be collected and used), nor undermine the integrity of the person or the community it’s about. Particularly if they don’t have power in the given situation but should;
  • make sure data and information we’re working with are secure.

Where this resource started and where it's going

Together with a group of people (working in technology for social justice in a variety of roles) met at the 2014 Nonprofit Software Development Summit, we gathered in a breakout session and found ourselves discussing exactly about this: what do we need to know and do, how can we make sure we don’t skip any step which could make or break the security, power balance, transparency, accessibility (and more) of a responsible data storytelling project? We had a good feeling about the efficacy of lists and resources, but wanted to make some research to discover what already existed and if so, how it worked.

After our conversation, we wrote about it and received generous feedback from people working in big and small NGOs, active in grassroots groups, volunteering in initiatives working on the ground. Talking with practitioners who have been working in this field for several years, we realised that many of them, even having a lot of experience on various steps of the work process, often feel like they are missing a guide to help them keep the complexity of such project under control. Something to help answer difficult questions, especially when they arise without allowing a lot of time to take a decision, offering a wide range of possibilities to fit a diversity of scenarios. A collection of resources – a toolkit, basically.

From these reflections and conversations comes the idea to work together on a Responsible Data Storytelling Toolkit. We kicked off a very first sketch of the idea which even in its simplicity inspired great inputs and led to discovering spot-on resources. So, following the kind invitation of the Responsible Data Forum, we’re now joining its wiki and presenting you an updated and more fleshed out version of the toolkit.

What we need help with

We’d love to hear from anyone who’d like to share feedback and contribute to develop the list further – so many other tools (and maybe also sections) could be added! Also, it would be great to know if you see this being helpful in your work, and if so, how. And where would you like to see this project go next?

Responsible Data Storytelling Toolkit


What is Responsible Data Storytelling?

How could it help my work?

About this Toolkit

Before starting the project

What does it mean to work on a Responsible Data Storytelling project?

Approach and Values

Consider what would (could) the project lifecycle be

Structuring and executing the project

Project planning

Helpful case studies that can help guide your project

  • [to be added: relevant case studies]

Context analysis

  • Study the ecosystem (actors, goals and challenges): know your stakeholders and what you want them to do as a result, once they read the story and interact with the data. This exercise can help thinking this through.


Project delivery and Next Steps


  • to the community served by the project
    • delivery of the tool and training to enable usage
    • post-delivery support
  • to the public
    • clear and relatable message (make use of media and visualizations as most effective)
    • connect personal stories to collective political issues (“political” as in “addressing relations of power”)
    • if the project aims to raise awareness and public action: have a clear 1-line with an ask
  • to funders
    • document impact, combining outcome stories and data
    • final report (including documentation re potential maintenance needs)


Scalability (optional)