The coronavirus pandemic has exposed deep structural problems that go far beyond conventional ideas of public health, not least the impacts of pervasive inequality and racism. Civil society is mobilising to adapt and respond. Our ability to drive change will depend in part on our ability to communicate vital information in effective ways, harnessing the power of data and digital technology. The emergency has shown that the right information delivered in the right way can prompt people to change their individual behaviours and collectively save lives all over the world.

The iconic "Flatten the Curve" graph, which encouraged people everywhere to help contain the spread of COVID-19, is a case in point. It shows how measures such as hand-washing and social distancing can squash the expected peak of the pandemic, and keep infection numbers low enough for healthcare systems to manage. This simple public health chart, which originated in specialist journals and reports, was widely shared by traditional newspapers and magazines, then refined to clarify the message even further, translated into many languages, and creatively reworked into animations, cartoons and even cat videos.

A colleague in the data and human rights world asked friends and followers what international leaders need to hear right now about the state of human rights around the globe.

I told him that if I could draw on my own experience to ask an international body to do one thing, it would be to confront and address the global delinquency in data governance.

Storytelling for advocacy is a challenge, especially in transparency work, where the characters are often lawyers—or laws—and not mythical heroes. As advocates who want to make a point to make a change, we need vivid imagery to deliver our message, especially because the changes we seek can be hard to explain.

We seek compelling stories the same way those heroes seek magic hammers and hidden temples. We’re on a quest for stories that can remake the world. But—spoiler alert—the quest often ends in disappointment.

View Blog
I help mission-driven organizations and foundations align vision, digital strategy, communications and day-to-day work. See recent work ...

Work

Laura and John Arnold Foundation

Promoting evidence-based decisions to upgrade criminal justice in the U.S.

The World Bank      

Visualizing how money moves from companies and aid groups to governments and citizens

Open Contracting Partnership

Defining strategy for a new organization at the forefront of the global fight on corruption

View All Work

Close