Blog & Resources

Hillcrest Advisory began with a passion to make the world a better place, one fact at a time. Here are some resources to help support your work.

E-Mail Newsletter

Hillcrest Advisory publishes a quarterly e-mail newsletter summarizing important trends and practical tips related to communicating effectively with data. Sign up.

Video Tutorials: Achieving Impact with Data Communication

Here’s a seven-part video series on lessons learned in communicating data for impact that covers what is data storytelling; designing data presentations for face-to-face outreach; how to make data visualizations relatable to your audiences, and other topics.

Catalog of Data Tools to Support Social Sector Work

For a client project, Hillcrest Advisory put together a catalog of tools and resources that feature data for communities across California. Even if you’re not in California, the compilation still may be useful. After all, about 15 of the roughly 50 items noted have data for communities nationally, too.

Blog Posts

Dashboards Are Not Data Stories

Nightingale, a publication of the international Data Visualization Society, November 2021
Dashboards have become shorthand for data display, but sometimes dashboards don’t adequately address the assignment we’re often given as visualization specialists – to “create a story from the data.”

In addition, this blog post inspired a Data Visualization Society-sponsored discussion on the benefits, purposes, and drawbacks of dashboards; I was a panelist in that YouTube chat.

Asterisk Nation: One Tribe’s Challenge to Find Data About its Population

Nightingale, a publication of the international Data Visualization Society, February 2021
How can we analyze findings and visualize results when data for important communities are simply not reported? In the coming months and years, as Census data are compiled, released, analyzed, and visualized, let’s keep in mind who we don’t count, or who we undercount.

Flattening the Curve and Expanding My Understanding: Lessons from Data Visualizations Done Well

Nightingale, a publication of the international Data Visualization Society, March 2020
The concept of “flattening the curve” and the related graph has been shared widely during the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak, and it’s been heartening to see health data visualization so concretely help us understand the need to “squish down” and spread out the impact from COVID-19.

13 Things to Visualize About COVID-19 Besides Case Loads

Nightingale, a publication of the international Data Visualization Society, March 2020
The data focus early in this pandemic is understandably on case loads, but there are other things that we can visualize to help us understand the true impact of COVID-19.

Why We Need Less Data and More Story in the Evidence We Present

AcademyHealth, January 2020
It’s (understandably) challenging for researchers to communicate with stories + data. In this blog post series, I share some ideas on what we can do to help address this.

How Can Data Visualization Improve Local Conditions? Building for Practicality May Be the Secret Sauce

Nightingale, a publication of the international Data Visualization Society, November 2019
This piece covers local data viz projects taking place all over the globe, from New York City to Peru to Nigeria, and many other places. What is the secret to data vizzes that have a tangible, in-the-trenches, local impact? See what data practitioners have to say on that subject.

Visualizing the Opioid Epidemic

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice, July 2019
Various local and state health departments are developing opioid data dashboards containing visualizations, descriptive information, and downloadable data or reports. Opioid data dashboards can potentially improve our understanding of the opioid epidemic, facilitate community planning, promote evidence-based decision making, and support monitoring and evaluation. Yet, will these data dashboards meet these goals?

Seven Ways We Can Help Local Organizations Transform Data into Impact

Hillcrest Advisory, May 2019
Do folks in the trenches using data for decision-making have the tools they need to take on their important work? We collectively offer folks doing local work what we assume they need with data, not what they actually could benefit from. Here are some ideas on how we can build up the capacity of those doing community-level work to transform numbers into impact.

Why Do I Feel Like I’m Still Waiting for Data to Come to Our Rescue?

Hillcrest Advisory, April 2019
Some thoughts on what we can do to better realize the potential that all of this social sector data provides us. Hint: The answer isn’t more data; it’s a focus on storytelling and user needs.

Health Data Are Potent Fuel for Change

California Health Care Foundation, October 2015
This blog post, co-written with the now-secretary for California’s health agency, summarizes how open data not only has inspired innovation across California, but also has helped make state government more effective.

If You Partner, They Might Just Come: One Foundation’s Effort to Disseminate Data on Quality of Care

Health Affairs, March 2014
A summary of California Health Care Foundation’s initiatives to promulgate data about the quality of hospitals and nursing homes.

 Can We Use Data to Fortify Our Democracy?

Towards Data Science, February 2018
If we’re all digesting different information and don’t consult the same rough script, how can we possibly come together to solve problems? As a hopeless data romantic, I’d like to think there’s a role here for data in providing us common ground.

Webinar: Lessons Learned in Communicating with Data

Council on Foundations, January 2019
This recording of a webinar that I conducted for the Council on Foundation’s membership is focused on the needs of foundations and nonprofits. It provides an overview of lessons that I’ve learned over the years in communicating data effectively.

Local Health Data: From Buried Treasure to Everyday Commodity

Health Affairs, September 2013
Harnessing meaningful information from the array of health datasets that exist shouldn’t be like digging for gold, but for many California counties, that’s what the experience resembles.

A Radical Proposal: Should Health Journalists Leave the Sidelines?

The Center for Health Journalism, September 2017
With all of the local work taking place in communities across America to help improve health outcomes with data, it’s important to ask the question of what role journalists should play in these local data ecosystems.

Towards Data Science, April 2018
What trends are taking place these days in data visualization? Here are some important developments for how organizations are leveraging data as a visual communication tool to reach broader audiences.

It Takes a Community to Humanize Health Data

Knight Foundation, September 2013
Reflections from a data partnership with the Knight Foundation

Playing with Data

California Health Care Foundation, March 2016
Reflections and recommendations on how communities across California can help improve local conditions through data and data storytelling.

A Health Care Data Visualization Recipe: Lollipops, Donuts and Other Visual Delectables

Velir, November 2018
Health care data are complex, making it challenging to convey meaning in a clear way. When I was at Velir, stewarding its data visualization practice, we worked with major health care organizations, where we used lollipops, donuts and other visual delectables to create crisp visual summaries of complicated topics.

If It’s Impact We’re After, Let’s Make Data Visualizations Both Pragmatic and Beautiful

Velir, September 2018
Some recommendations on threading that needle between beauty and practicality when creating data visualizations that can have impact in the social sector.

Lessons I’ve Learned from Communicating Data Locally

All In: Data for Community Health, June 2017
Why is it so hard to get data used effectively to achieve impact? In this post, I explore my experiences on this front and share lessons that I’ve learned.

Bringing California Open Data to Life

GovFresh, November 2016
Open data needs people, not portals, to succeed, and that’s just what the California Health & Human Services Agency has been at work on tackling.