Data Stories: Bringing Data to Communities
This guest blog post has been written by Cameron Fadjo, a learning scientist behind multiple globally recognized programs in computer science education, and founder of Data Stories, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization bringing data literacy and storytelling to communities, businesses, and individuals around the world. Cameron would like to acknowledge Allen Hillery for his expert assistance with this article, as well as his many contributions to Data Stories.
The story of Data Stories is one about communities, equity, access, empowerment, and a changing economic landscape. As is often the case, when attempting to distill a trove of information into a single message it can be incredibly difficult to focus on a single number.
I could, for example, talk about the small percentage of workers (21%) who report being ‘confident in their data literacy’ skills. I could easily use this alarmingly low percentage to explain our focus on upskilling workers and use that number to explain why we seek to help the myriad of workers for whom data is integral to their economic (and, by extension, social, cultural, and political) prosperity as a key reason for our work. I might further expound on the urgency needed to remedy this situation in light of an ever-increasingly complex global stage where economic competitiveness (if not to say environmental criticality) is rooted, in part, in the ability for an informed populace to extract value from troves of data.
Or I could reference a myriad of low statistics around the ongoing challenges within multiple industries as a primary reason behind our efforts to address inequitable access to ‘tech’ and ‘tech-adjacent’ skills among the current and future workforce.
Maybe a reference to the research showing how children’s career aspirations are often set by age seven and change relatively little between that early age and 18 years old when major life and career decisions take shape in college, career, and community would be a remarkably compelling reason for our efforts?
All would be (and are) reasons for Data Stories. While there is no single reason ‘why’ Data Stories was founded, we have identified a single purpose that propels us forward.
We want to bring data literacy and data storytelling to communities around the world so that local change can happen on a global scale.
This ambition is central to our mission – one that, it is definitely worth noting, contributes to the larger ‘Data Literacy’ movement currently underway through the exemplary work of multiple organizations around the world (such as Data Literacy, The Data Lodge, Be Data Lit, Tableau, Microsoft, Juice Analytics, The Data Literacy Project, Digital NEST, Beta NYC, etc.).
We, as the saying goes, stand on the ‘shoulders of giants’ and are focused on bringing data literacy, data science education, and data storytelling to students, teachers, and adults through our programs and initiatives.
At Data Stories, we start with the premise that global change is most effective at the local level.
Communities are capable of remarkable developments and transformations. If we are going to create massive change on a global scale (as we aspire to do), then we need to empower individuals in each and every community imaginable to have the access, training, and support necessary to embed data literacy into their schools and workplaces.
Photo by Phil Haber Photography
Next, we realize the power of technology to bring resources, supports, and affinity groups to individuals leading the charge in their communities.
Just as we are building upon the momentum around data literacy, we are utilizing well-known models for community engagement to further our mission. Specifically, we have created facilitator guides, training materials, and structural supports for individuals in a community who want to lead the charge in their own towns and regions.
Finally, our efforts emphasize the importance of being ‘open’, ‘accessible’, and ‘transformative’.
At Data Stories we are creating and supporting the implementation of deep, meaningful, and sustainable data literacy programs. To accomplish this, we provide low or no-cost resources, deliver free remote data storytelling workshops to program facilitators, and support local efforts to establish data literacy programs through programmatic efforts.
What We Offer
Data Stories brings data literacy and data storytelling to schools, businesses, and communities through our two programs – Explorations and Launchpad.
Explorations: Data Literacy and Data Storytelling Education for K-12 and Higher Ed
The Explorations program provides Faculty, Teachers and Students with a collection of resources (lessons/activities, facilitator guides, online community) and programmatic support (mentors, Speaker Series, Weekend Workshops) for bringing data education into the classroom or after school setting.
Since its launch in Fall 2020 we have had 125 individual members from 22 states and five countries join the Data Stories community. Our goal is to continue to expand and deepen this work through strategic partnerships and by releasing additional new, equity-focused curriculum resources using numerous frameworks (NCWIT Engagement Practices and Kapor Center Culturally Responsive CS Framework) in 2022.
Launchpad: Building Data Skills to Create Career Paths
By 2025, 44% of the skills that employees will need to perform their roles effectively will change according to The Future of Jobs Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum. The majority of that shift will involve more technology and data skills.
As a community-oriented effort, the Launchpad program establishes local capacity among individuals, businesses, organizations, and government to address shifting workforce development skills development in ‘data’ (analyzing data, visualizing data, and communicating ideas about data through story) and modern workplace competencies (managing tasks, organizing details, setting priorities, etc.).
Through a combination of partnerships with local businesses and economic development organizations, hybrid training initiatives, and workforce development programs, the Data Stories Launchpad program provides a robust community around which data literacy skills are formed and developed at the local level.
A Home for Each Launchpad Community
Another key aspect to the Launchpad program is finding a home where these efforts can live within the community. We know that, in order to create local value and promote local investment, the formation of a ‘hub’ where the Data Stories programs can be based will ensure that we are true to our mission around building and maintaining deep, meaningful, and sustainable data literacy efforts.
Starting in early 2022, we will be launching five (5) Data Stories Community Hubs, a site where 100+ individuals, businesses, and community leaders can convene to build data literacy capacity, in the following target locations:
- Hudson Valley, NY (Rhinebeck, NY) – Northeast
- Cook County, IL (Chicago Metro Area) – Midwest
- Fulton County, GA (Georgia Metro Area) – Southeast
- Santa Fe County, NM (Santa Fe Metro Area) – Southwest
- Coachella Valley, CA (Palm Springs, CA) – West
Be Part of the Data Stories Journey
As the son of a small business owner (and a small business owner myself), I’ve seen first hand how important – and how challenging – it can be to work, live, and thrive in an economy shaped by the ever-changing landscape of technology. Coupled with the increasing importance of being able to read and write with data, the reality many organizations are facing (be it school, business, or governmental entity) is that it’s vitally important to be able able to to derive value and meaning from the world of data in order to survive and thrive in the modern knowledge economy. We are working to play a vital role in this work.
I believe the timing is perfect to engage communities and individuals around ‘data’. I hope you will join us as we continue to support this movement toward a world where we create change and economic opportunity through words, data, and visualization.
Visit datastories.cc to learn more. Become a Data Stories member by filling out this form. Our campaign to launch Data Stories Community Hubs in NY and CA are live – check out datastories.cc/donate for more information.
We want to thank the Data Literacy project community, in particular Becky Jones and Ben Jones, for their support.