With one data mural planning session down and a few more to come, we’re thinking about what went well and what we can improve for next time.  For a summary of what we did, visit (http://datatherapy.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/story-finding-in-food-security-data/) The process was fun, but what I’m really looking forward to is tonight’s session where we’ll all have a chance to build things and draw pictures!

I’ll use this an opportunity to reflect on the story-finding workshop.  We have another data mural project in the works with a coalition addressing healthy weight and a third project that we’re planning with a local Boys and Girls club. There’s also a smaller interactive data mural project planned for this coming Monday, so what we learn about how to make the process even better matters!

As we began the workshop it took a little bit more introduction than I would have liked before we could stand up and actually dive into the coalition’s data.  Next time I hope to have the group do a “gallery walk” or another more active process to look at examples of other murals.  We had a couple of guests, people who weren’t members of the food security coalition, so that meant that perhaps we should have spent more time introducing the work of the coalition and the topic of food security instead of just jumping into the idea of a data mural.  However, one of the most significant changes from pre-test to post-test was that participants knew a lot more about food security at the end of the session than they did at the beginning, so perhaps there were enough opportunities to explore the topic.  It seemed to work well to share and discuss a handful of examples of murals that incorporate data from around the world. We even heard that people would have liked to see more examples.  Also helpful, but perhaps too academic, was a practice run of “story-finding” where the group looked briefly at a small subset of Somerville’s “happiness data” to find stories within it.


According to evaluations, people really enjoyed the opportunity to work collaboratively.  I saw that during small groups as we poured over local food security, housing and poverty data and find stories.  Everyone was engaged.  I wasn’t the only one who wanted more time for that.  And then we reconvened as a full group to narrow down our story ideas to the single one that we’ll use on the mural.  Although, or perhaps because, people were engaged, this was the most difficult part for me. With time already running out for the session, we had to develop some criteria for how we would choose our story (we decided the final story should be true, should be complete, should be the most important story, should have elements of food security in it, and should be actionable or offer a solution.)  Through our discussion we tried to measure each possible interesting story that the group had generated against these criteria.  We grouped similar stories together and after a short discussion in which people could advocate for a certain story or share the reasons why one might not be compelling, they each took a marker to star the story that they liked best.  This helped to rule out many, and narrowed the field down to two broad stories.


With a little bit of final tweaking and discussion we arrived at a single (though rich) story that the whole group agreed could be the story of the mural.  It is:

“The data say that for many people food is not affordable and accessible because of the number of people living in poverty (or undocumented).  We want to tell this story because there are resources in Somerville to help.”

We’ll be coming together again this Thursday to turn that story into a design for the mural.  It should be fun!