Interview with DATA4CHAN.GE partner Beyond Words
DATA4CHAN.GE is all about creating partnerships and sharing knowledge and expertise when it comes to data visualisation, data driven storytelling and advocacy. Over the years we have had the privilege to work with some amazing people and organisations from all over the world. For the fifth and upcoming edition of DATA4CHAN.GE in Beirut (February 21-28, 2018) we are super excited to announce that we will work with the wonderful and talented people at Beyond Words. We caught up with its founders Rebecca Conroy and Duncan Swain, and their Design Director Michael Brenner to find out what drew them to DATA4CHAN.GE and what they have in store for the participants.
What inspired Beyond Words to get involved with DATA4CHAN.GE?
Rebecca Conroy (RC): We’ve always wanted to focus as much of our time as possible on doing ‘good things’ and, having heard of the unique way in which DATA4CHAN.GE works, we were always keen to be involved.
Michael, you helped lead the DATA4CHAN.GE workshop in Beirut 2016, what was that experience like?
Michael Brenner (MB): The most striking thing about DATA4CHAN.GE is that in a five day period, a group of people who started out as strangers can come together and hash out impressive, inspired solutions for some pretty difficult problems. It’s remarkable how effortless everyone's willingness is to simply look, listen and absorb various perspectives and cultural backgrounds. It really was, and is, all about perspective. Overall DATA4CHAN.GE has helped to solidify many thoughts and ideas regarding a creative workflow and process. It is a laboratory for testing and ideating on workflows, team structures and data visualisation ideas that may not necessarily have the ability to be explored in other environments. Because DATA4CHAN.GE is so open, flexible and above all a safe space it allows the smallest of ideas to germinate, flourish and float to the top.
What are the short and long term benefits of agencies like Beyond Words getting involved with projects like DATA4CHAN.GE?
Duncan Swain (DS): There are a mix of things I think we get from our relationship with DATA4CHAN.GE. Most importantly, it’s that knowledge that we’re using the visualisation skills and knowledge we’ve developed over the years to help other people. And, often, those people really need and appreciate the passing on of that knowledge. So we feel good about what we do.
RC: It also helps the team here develop certain skills. They learn how to talk, knowledgeably, in front of groups of people. They learn how to help other people learn. And, equally importantly, they learn to better form and crystallise their own thinking about what we do and how we visualise. This is essential because they’re having to feedback on other people’s visualisation work through the process of the DATA4CHAN.GE project and workshops to help direct them towards better answers.
Michael, you’re representing Beyond Words again at this year’s workshop, so what can the participants expect?
MB: If the participants from both the human rights organisations (HROs) and creative teams this year come with an open mind and a willingness to explore, they’ll go far together. At minimum I hope that everyone walks away with a better sense and understanding of how to navigate a data set, explore it by drilling down to its core, extrapolate key stories and visualise it. More specifically the HROs can expect to learn how to be even better collaborators and learn how to navigate the often tricky creative world. If we can achieve the above together that would be amazing and they can certainly expect to.
What do you hope to see come as an outcome from the workshop?
DS: For me I just hope the participants come away from the workshop feeling as super excited about visualising data as we are and, hopefully, better equipped to do that.
RC: It would be great to see some of the visualisations developed in the workshop go live and make a difference to the causes and campaigns they are highlighting.
MB: In all honesty I hope everyone leaves the workshop a bit more empathy and carries this into whatever comes next for them. I’d also hope that they leave with a sense of pride and accomplishment in what they’ll achieve in such a short amount of time. It’s a big ask of a participant to enter into a five day social contract where they’re essentially asked to be open and diplomatic, to leave all ego at the door and work with a team they’ve not met before. One of the greatest aspects and strengths of DATA4CHAN.GE is the relationships, contacts and networks that are expanded upon and forged during the workshop. I also hope that the HROs walk away with a better sense of how they might reach out and make use of a flourishing creative community to help amplify their messages. One thing that everyone can be sure to leave DATA4CHAN.GE with are solid connections to a whole new expanded network of some pretty amazing people. The bonds and connections that are made during workshop are exceptional and run deep, mainly due to the expectation that everyone enters the workshop with an open mind.