An introduction to visualising development data (The Open University)

In conjunction with the BBC, the UK’s Open University has produced a fabulous video and lesson series on visualizing data related to international development issue. These feature the fabulous TED speaker and world health expert Hans Roling.

In An introduction to visualising development data explains the principles of visualizing data and how you can do the same using tools such as his GapMinder.

These are possible tools that you can use in your international projects.

This is part of a series on Don’t Panic – How to End Poverty in 15 Years


On Video, On Story, On Movie Making

In a short hangout today with Yasin (look at him embed video like a blogging pro!) we discussed thinking about the video your teams will produce at the end of this project (your teams will combine to produce a single video for your NGO client). You all know what video is, you see films, movies, funny shorts on YouTube all the time, but how are the good ones made? And we are not just talking about the mechanics, but actually the craft of creating a short story.

In this post I will offer some points (and yes tools) to consider, largely based on my experience and open digital storytelling course called DS106 — many of my resources I will mostly link (you do know now, the power of hyperlinking, right?).

Perhaps the most important understanding of why stories work (see more from DS106 on Storytelling) comes from novelist Kurt Vonnegut who explains the shapes of stories:

When you start thinking about your video as a story, try to focus on what you can portray as a journey for a person in your video, and what kind of surprise/unexpected part you can have happen. Do not give away the end of your story at the beginning.

In addition, neuroscientist Paul Zak explains the brain science behind why stories work – they cause the release of neurotransmitters associated with seeing someone in distress and having empathy for that person. His talk presents the important of Vonnegut’s shape in a new way.

Before you think about how to make movies, it’s worth practicing what we in DS106 call “Reading Movies” — take a closer look at video you see on your various screens, and start paying attention to details. Listen to the ideas too of documentary film amkers sucj as Ken Burns, who focuses too on the story element:

In film, you do not see them using a lot of fancy video transitions that you find overused in video software. Look at camera positions, cuts of shots, lighting, sound, staging (positioning). Look at some of the short videos from DS106 Reading Movies (open the “reading Movies” header) that explain or identify techniques of filmmakers, e.g.

As you look at video content you see, see if you can identify these methods.

As far as the tools part (yes I know you want to hear it), you can do all of what you need for this project with the basic software that comes with your computer- either Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie (I do all of my video work in the latter). If you or anyone on your project has experience with more advanced software, by all means, let them go to town with it.

But every computer comes with this software that allows you to import photos, graphic., video, sound and turn them into a video, plus add titles, and other elements like end credits. While you are still developing your ideas, you may want to start assembling media that might lend itself to your project. And you are more than encouraged to combine using media that you find online with photos and video you acquire yourself.

If you use media that is not yours, keep a record where it came from. Make a document that includes the name and source URL of where you found them (not just “on Google”). Just because you found it on google does not mean you have the rights to use it, so use search tools like Creative Commons to find media licensed for reuse. I have a project site that lists over 50 sources for open licensed media. Or look in Wikimedia Commons. Or in Google Images search, learn how to restrict your results to items licensed for reuse.

To use clips you find in YouTube or vimeo and many other sites, the best tool (there are hundreds of them) I know and use is — the browser add ons add a download link to all compatible sites.

Your mobile camera is made for capturing media, but also as you do this for your project, you will want to consider for video trying to not do hand held shaky video (unless that is part of the script). Look for ways to prop your mobile against a book to keep it steady or maybe you have a small tripod device to hold it steady.

Pay attention to audio too- if you record, make sure your sound levels are audible, think about sound effects (or what is known as Foley) and background music.

You will also find ideas in the projects done by last year’s Project Community Students

We look forward to seeing on the big screen in November what the 2015 teams produce!

Work the Net – A Resource on Using Networks for Development

From Work the Net p 5, SKATThis resource is a pretty traditional view of networks – they use the term “formal networks” – but it is useful nonetheless.

Work the Net – A Management Guide for Formal Networks

The guide addresses networking practitioners, as well as other professionals wishing to set up a network, but also established networkers will find some useful tips. It was developed by professionals with sound experience in designing and running networks.

This hands-on guide in concise A5 format describes on 140 pages how formal networks can be set up, managed and used in an efficient and effective way. The process-oriented approach is explained with a flow chart, and checklists summarise the crucial steps. A resource section provides relevant publications and websites.

‘Work the Net’ is one of the results of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) project ‘Networking, Information and Knowledge Management by Regional Organizations’ (NeRO), which provided an exchange platform for information and knowledge management approaches and instruments between regional development organizations focusing on the management of natural resources in the Asian context. (Download PDF)

Every Blog Post Should Be Able to Stand Alone

When you are blogging about your projects, you are in the middle of a familiar forest of information. When you write your post, you may want to consider this question:

If this is the only blog post someone finds from our site, will they know what it is part of? What it refers to?

Your posts may show up on search results, shared through social media, maybe linked from a large international paper (think BIG). Look at your post- if it is the only thing a reader finds, will they understand what it is about? What it is part of?

Every blog post should be a stand alone island. It should stand alone and be able to be understood from it’s content.

Public Domain image from pixabay
Public Domain image from pixabay

This does not man you have to explain your project in every blog post. This is where a link is your friend.

If you refer to “our NGO” — will a reader know what that is? The easiest way is to make a link to something that represents your NGO. If you refer to “our last meeting” — will a reader know where that information is? link to another blog post that explains it.

You do not have to explain everything or link everything, but try to look at your blog post through the eyes of an unfamiliar reader.

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Featured image credits: flickr photo by piczoom shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

A Social Justice Take on the Sustainable Development Goals

From my blog feeds this morning I came across Sustainable Development Goals for Everyone, not just the 1%

This is very profound to me:

The SDGs claim they can eradicate poverty in all its forms by 2030. But they rely primarily on global economic growth to achieve this tremendous task. If such growth resembles that seen in recent decades, it will take 100 years for poverty to disappear, not the 15 years the SDGs promise. And even if this were possible in a shorter timescale, we would need to increase the size of the global economy by a factor of 12, which, in addition to making our planet uninhabitable, will obliterate any gains against poverty.

Rather than paper over such obvious madness with false hopes, we must address two critical issues head on: income inequality and endless material growth.

If poverty is to be truly overcome by 2030, then much of the improvement in the position of the impoverished must come through reduction in the enormous inequality that has accumulated in the last 200 plus years. The richest 1% of humanity will very soon own over half of the world’s private wealth. It would take only modest reductions in inequality to deliver large increases in the socio-economic position of the poorer half of humanity.

As I think of the teams hard at work for Project Community, I have sensed that they are very motivated by social justice. The NGOs we are partnering with have that same perspective. Is the part of a new wave?

Culture Map

While we have moved on from our “team” week, team dynamics will be important all the way through Project Community. My friend Dave Gray has been working on a Culture Map and just put out his next iteration. As you work with your clients, you may find this VERY useful particularly as you think through projects that have social media interactions as part of your plans. Check it out.

Resources from Stanford Social Innovation Review

Fall 2015 Edition of SSIR

I had a hangout at 6am today with the Tiny Innovators. I noticed one of their ideas builds on the idea of social entrepreneurship, and social innovation. In  essence, your projects are examples of social innovation. Did you know that? So it might be useful to get to know the Stanford Social Innovation Review. It is full of examples and ideas.

I just clicked into one article to see if I could find something of use to you and boom, there it was, “Lending an Ear to Loan Beneficiaries” about listening to your clients.

Here is a snippet of one article I was skimming this morning:

So we reached out to Joe Stasio, a marketing professor at Merrimack College. He told us something we thought we already knew: listen to our clients. The concept is an established one; the New York Times just ran a great piece about it. But here’s the thing: We hadn’t ever really processed the fact that when it comes to customer research, there’s often a big gap between understanding the intent and implementing the practice effectively.

In fact, we thought the kind of customer research we could afford wasn’t the kind that could help us. We had, in the past, tried hard to put ourselves in the shoes of those we serve—when we were struggling to design marketing campaigns, launch new products, and build community partnerships—with mixed results at best. No matter how hard we tried, we were far more biased toward our own perspectives than those of our clients.

As you interview and develop/share initial ideas with your clients, how well are you listening? What listening approaches are you taking? Check out the article for ideas.