Say something solid

Madhuri Dass Woudenberg is Head of Communications at the Global Development Network, a public international organisation that supports high quality, policy-oriented, social science research in developing and transition countries, to promote better lives.

She is also a strategy, advocacy and communications specialist, with over 15 years of experience across Asia and Africa. 

Besides data visualisation, she is interested in web and new media, writing, designing, films, event management, communications training and emergency response communications. She is also an expert trainer in many of these topics.

Madhuri is on Twitter at @MadhuriDass. The author’s views are personal. 


Photo by Lauren Manning | flickr.com

Photo by Lauren Manning | flickr.com

I help social science researchers think about how to plan or commission data visualisations for their results.

Many think that designing a great visualisation will somehow elevate their findings. This is not always true.

The consulting field on data visualisation, unfortunately, is filled with advice on which colors or charting methods to use, or how to adapt them for use on mobile phones. Which is all very well, but it obfuscates.

People forget that a ‘visualisation’ of any kind is just an aid. It needs to say something solid. Read more of this post

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The impact producer

Photo by Ronald Yang | unsplash.com

Photo by Ronald Yang | unsplash.com

The #ImpactAgenda is upon us. Every government funding agency I know is looking for impact outside the academic sphere. So, I’ve been thinking about impact a lot lately.

One of the best ways to learn how to do things better is to look at how they’re done in an allied industry. The best example of this that I know of is the idea of bench-marking hospital admissions against hotel check-ins. At a basic level, both activities are similar: you are allocating a room to a person who wants to stay at your establishment. Yet the experience can be totally different. Hotel check-in is usually quick, friendly, and relatively painless. Hospital admissions, on the other hand, can sometimes be quite bureaucratic, protracted, and impersonal. The two experiences, while similar, are underpinned by completely different attitudes to the work. So, hospitals have learnt a lot about admissions from hotels.

By examining an idea in a different environment, we can sometimes learn not just how other people do things, but gain new ideas about how to improve our own activities.

For those researchers who are grappling with the impact agenda currently being rolled out in Australia, the UK, and other countries, it’s worth thinking about how documentary film-makers increase the impact of their films.

Making a documentary film can be a long and exhausting process. Finding funding, assembling a team, executing a plan when you never have quite enough resources, coping with team dynamics, keeping everything together long enough to get the job done, and maintaining a singular vision while doing it – all of this sounds a bit like a research program to me. Read more of this post