Vizzing for Social Good

Last week we finally had our first Viz For Social Good Amsterdam local chapter meetup and it was, well at least I though, fantastic! The positive energy, feedback and the crowd that lingered behind makes me believe that I was not the only person that felt this way.

The event:

The event was wonderful, if I do say so myself. This was the first local chapter installment of Viz for Social Good in Amsterdam and was run in conjunction with Data Plus Women NL. We ran a mini hackathon, which also included a training session for those who are new to Tableau.

We started with an introduction to the Viz for Social Good project as a whole, Chloe’s inspiration and how this community project has grown from a one woman operation to an award winning venture with its own board and chapter leaders in APAC, EMEA and North America, all centered around people harnessing the power of data visualization for social change. We then introduced the charity and explained how to take part in the project, all outlined here, if you are interested.

The charity we worked with for this small hackathon, was Kiron, a Berlin based NGO that helps refugees get a better education, with the aim of making them more ready for the job market and increasing integration (click here to find out more about Kiron).

The one lesson that stood out to me from the last mini hackathons, was that, while we encourage people with all levels of data viz skills (and all tools) to come along and take part, sometime, we forget that, that range of level of skill also means, there will be some attendees, who are new to Tableau. As a data community advocate, I decided, it was time to do something about this, and so we would also have a training session.

The training:

I happened to mention in our Data Plus Women planning, that I would like to have a Tableau training session as part of this hackathon. Not realizing that the angel that is Rachel Costa, would come and completely blow all of my expectations out of the water. I was thinking, quick demo, show them how to make a few charts, but Rachel, she had bigger and better plans.

Rachel used the Kiron data, to create a nice simple data viz. She then used the hour or so that we had for the hackathon, to walk our three newbies to Tableau, how to make each chart and bring them together into a dashboard. I love this, because, well at least I hope, while those not so new at Tableau were able to chat and throw ideas around, those that were new, also were able to come out of the session with a real tangible result. I am so warmed by the thought that this event really was able to provide a platform for anyone at any level of data viz, to take part in a project like Viz for Social Good and have everyone feel like they can be involved and useful.

My thoughts:

While what we do to help different NGOs can be a game changer for the NGO, what I found really important here was the community fostering. Some people can make fantastic data visualization with what seems like very little effort and no pushing. In our session the skill levels ranged from Alteryx Ace and Iron Viz finalists all the way to data viz newbies. I am not one of those people that find it so easy to create a stunning viz and so I find it very important to surround myself with driven people, who I can learn from, who encourage me and push me to be better at what I do. By bringing all these people and skill levels together, by helping people find this community of like minds, I hope we will inspire more people to want to help out our Viz For Social Good cause.

If I’m honest, the excitement and collaboration of the data viz community was something I have been missing since moving to The Netherlands (aside from when I went to the Tableau Conference Europe). This event, is the first time that I felt this community, this #datafam feeling here in Amsterdam, and I really hope that this is something we can grow!

My advice for future VfSG social vizzing session holders:

1. Relax, you’re doing something awesome, for an institution that helps people less fortunate and for a community of eager data visualizers. Nothing needs to be perfect, having a good time and making people feel welcome, engaged. Sparking an interest is what matters here.

2. If you can have a hands on training session, I would highly recommend it!

3. If it’s your first session, keep the event small. 20 people or less. And keep the setting informal.

4. Reach out. Any one of your VfSG board members and local chapter leaders will be more than happy to lend a helping hand, or moral support or answer any questions you may have.

Closing thoughts:

This event would not have been possible without the fantastic team I work with at Data Plus Women NL. I could not organize this without Emma Pavan, and Rachel Costa completely transformed the event with her Tableau training session. Maryse Monen did a great job of getting the event seen on twitter. Our ground crew Jess, Aline and Chris did a great job.

I hope that with this mini hackathon, we got a few more people on board on the #VizForSocialGood project and I hope to see some submissions pop up on twitter soon. The deadline for the Kiron project is not until July the 31st, so we have plenty of time to continue to help out with this worthy cause!