It’s relatively easy to build a data visualization that’s beautiful, but much harder to create a data story that’s useful and ensures an organization meet its goals. See how the work I’ve directed made sure that wide-ranging organizations, from foundations to government agencies to startups, could activate their agenda through data.
I established Hillcrest Advisory to help organizations:
- Put issues of importance on the public agenda
- Educate key constituents who may need guidance to see your vantage point.
- Inspire audiences to take a stand or an action. They could join a cause; make a contribution; vote for a policy; draft legislation; improve a regulation; or change an unhealthy behavior.
- Nurture collaboration in communities, connecting disparate organizations and enabling them to identify problems of common concern and forge solutions together.
- Illuminate how well public programs are functioning and where improvements may need to be made.
- More broadly, improve public discourse and decrease partisanship
Data are fuel to accomplish all of this, but this work doesn’t happen automatically. You may have internal capacity to find and manipulate data and analyze a spreadsheet. But to achieve impact, you also need to connect with constituents via a persuasive, cogent narrative, with messaging, presentation formats and an outreach plan rooted in the needs of audiences whom you need to reach. That’s where Hillcrest Advisory comes in.
Here are some examples from past work of how I have helped organizations achieve the outcomes they’re after:
California’s Open Data Program: Through my four-year stewardship of California Health Care Foundation’s (CHCF) open data initiative, I partnered with the State of California’s health agency to launch a highly regarded open data program. I established a programmatic goal for the foundation that was broader than just persuading the state to publish its treasure trove of public data. CHCF also wanted to encourage statewide use of these data and build a bridge between state staff and local individuals to forge meaningful interactions. The results of this partnership were detailed in this blog post, co-written by me and Michael Wilkening, currently the Secretary for the California Health and Human Service’s Agency.
Kidsdata.org: I launched, and, for roughly ten years, managed this program of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, which is aimed at harnessing data to raise awareness of children’s issues across California. Kidsdata.org, which began as an initiative for two Bay Area counties, was twice expanded by the foundation’s board based on its success, first to seven additional Bay Area counties and then to all cities, school districts, and counties in California. Beyond managing web operations, I launched and oversaw an array of media channels to encourage use of these local data, and forged strategic partnerships with statewide organizations interested in the well being of children.
California Accountable Communities for Health Initiative: For this project, funded by the California Endowment, I train 12 local accountable communities for health in California on data storytelling. These communities need to leverage data as a tool to persuade local businesses, elected officials, and others to improve a health condition, such as opioid misuse, asthma, or cardiovascular disease. My role is to equip these communities with skills to create compelling data stories that activate their agenda.
Shiftworkers, by the Numbers: This Velir-created data story was built in partnership with the communication firm, Purpose, through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The aim was to use a combination of poignant quotes, first-person videos, and other story elements, along with data, to explain the challenges affecting shift workers – that is, those who don’t know from week-to-week what their work schedule will be. I developed top-level messaging based on data findings; managed the storyboard process and relationship with the client; and drafted and edited the content that supports the illustrations and visualizations.
LiveStories: As Vice President for Partnerships and Strategy at this civic startup, I established methodologies to ensure that LiveStories’ fast-expanding customer base could get the absolute most out of the company’s data storytelling software, in order to ensure a steady stream of happy, long-term customers.
CalHospitalCompare: As a program officer at the California Health Care Foundation, I managed CHCF’s work to provide health care consumers in California with easy-to-digest ratings and data on hospital (and nursing home) quality. Beyond funding and providing program leadership for these two websites, I also guided efforts to create other vehicles for summarizing data, including this infographic on disparities in the quality of maternity care in California.
Primary Health Care Performance Initiative: This initiative, a partnership of the World Bank, the Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, Ariadne Labs, and Results for Development, contracted with Velir when I was there on the launch of a revamped website that features country-level data on primary health care. My role was to offer strategic input that helped assemble the foundation for this website redesign and data outreach plan. I interviewed end-users across the globe, as well as program leadership, in order to develop a roadmap for website enhancements and data-related outreach.
The Commonwealth Fund’s Quality-Spending Interactive: Also built by Velir, I helped ensure that the interactive map and graphs were assembled in ways to be both useful and used by key audiences nationwide and that the complex health care-related messaging was clear and concise. I worked with my colleagues at Velir to iterate on functionality for the visualizations and collaborated with the Commonwealth Fund to write and edit content.
American Heart Association Story Map: Velir partnered with the American Heart Association to pilot a story map tool that can both display Census tract-level data findings for five cities in the Northeast, and paint these data on a broader canvas, through photos, videos, and descriptions of local programs. I managed the relationship with the client; presented draft versions of the tool to key American Heart Association constituents to get input; obtained and analyzed data; developed related messaging; and edited content provided by the American Heart Association.