Parvathy Krishnan

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Analytics for a Better World

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Enhancing Data Storytelling at Oxfam Novib

The Storytelling with Data Workshop

Enhancing Data Storytelling at Oxfam Novib

Oxfam Novib, a key player in the global fight against inequality, recently embarked on an innovative journey to harness the power of data storytelling. A Storytelling with Data Workshop was conducted by  the Analytics for a Better World Institute, for the wider group of data, MEAL (Monitoriting, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning), and research colleagues at Oxfam Novib.

This workshop, in collaboration with ORTEC, Data for Africa, and CorrelAid, aimed to blend diverse skill sets, from coding novices to seasoned programmers. Participants from various parts of the world including Vietnam and the Netherlands, were introduced to Python-based data analysis and visualisation techniques. The focus was on real-world applications, using data ranging from survey insights to social media analytics.

Crafting a Curriculum tailored for Maximum Impact

ABW Institute’s approach to the workshop was anything but one-size-fits-all. We follow a unique and collaborative approach in curriculum development. Parvathy Krishnan, CTO/Lead Data Scientist at ABW, worked closely with Stephanie Milan Ramos and Marieke Meeske, both working as applied researchers at Oxfam Novib. This collaboration was instrumental in creating a training program tailored to Oxfam Novib’s specific needs, ensuring maximum impact within the available timeframe.

The curriculum was designed with the understanding that participants came from diverse backgrounds, with varying levels of data proficiency. The aim was to ensure that each person, regardless of their experience with coding or data analysis, could effectively engage and derive value from the workshop both at the conceptual as well as programming level. To accommodate the varying level of data proficiency across the group, we worked with pre-scripted code that allowed for varying levels of interaction and depth.

A Progressive Learning Path

The program was sequenced over five sessions:

  • Day 1: Introduction to storytelling with data visualisations.
  • Day 2: Python crash course on environment set-up, data preprocessing and data analysis.
  • Day 3: Merging quantitative and qualitative data insights in visualisations, and delving into geospatial analysis.
  • Day 4: Building an end-to-end data story.
  • Day 5 (Hackathon): Participants, divided into teams, applied their enhanced skills in a practical setting, developing data-driven narratives on chosen topics and projects within Oxfam Novib.

In addition, homework scripts were shared with the participants for in-depth practice to hone their Python skills.

The Hackathon: A Platform for Practical Application

 During the hackathon, a critical component of the workshop, participants got hands-on experience with applying their enhanced skills within two selected projects.

  1. Sowing Diversity = Harvesting Security: This programme works to empower smallholder farmers. Focusing on the importance of a region’s local biodiversity and on a participatory plant breeding process, it aims to build skills and support communities to claim their farmers’ rights. Participants were tasked with visualising and sharing the results achieved using cumulative quantitative and qualitative data from the project’s monitoring framework. They described and analysed the data using tools like Google Collab, Python, and Flourish.
  2. Environmental Impacts in Lao PDR: This project aimed to understand the environmental impacts of hydropower business activities in Laos. The data included perceptions from respondents in two provinces, emphasising biodiversity changes and floods caused by the construction of dams. Participants prepared a shortened version of the project’s data, focusing on the impact of dams on the environment and the local community, using Excel and Python.

The Impact and Beyond

The Storytelling with Data workshop was more than just a training program. It was a catalyst for change, equipping Oxfam Novib’s teams with the skills to more effectively communicate the impact of their work using data visualisations. This collaborative effort between research, public and private sector exemplified the power of partnerships in leveraging data for advocacy and social impact.

Reflecting on this experience, one can see how it aligns with Oxfam Novib’s commitment to making a tangible difference in the world. The Storytelling with Data Workshop has set a new standard in utilising data for storytelling, a vital tool in shaping narratives for change in the realm of social impact and advocacy.

We thank the amazing group of trainers and mentors who made this possible – Laura van Vledder (ORTEC), Anastasiia Kulakova (CorrelAid), Sebastian Graeff (Data for Africa) and Yoeri Van der Aerschot (ORTEC).

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