Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Data and Storytelling: Part III

To recap from parts I and II, using data to tell a story appears to trigger the analytical part of the brain, not the emotional. The emotional part is what spurs action. So using data to encourage action is counterproductive, the researchers tell us.

Now for the counterargument. Check out what is telling us -- the folks that pride themselves on sharing "the art & science of connecting with consumers."

Here's their press release -- my edits are marked:

Global- CNN has teamed up with Suzuki Motor Corporation to launch [product], an interactive website allowing users to check out the latest [subject] results and statistics as well as submit pictures, videos and commentary.

" continues to lead the field in global online news sites and this new initiative allows Suzuki Motor Corporation perfect reach to our audience who enjoy high disposable incomes and are proven regular purchasers", William Hsu, vice president, advertising sales Asia Pacific of CNN said in a statement.

"The strength of the message is unquestionable and we are delighted to pursue this campaign to promote our exciting Suzuki Motorcycle brand to CNN's audience", Masayoshi Ito, general manager, America & Europe Motorcycle marketing dept of Suzuki Motor Corporation said.

So what's the product? Why are they so excited about sharing statistics? Why do they think sharing statistics is such a strong message, so strong it will evoke the necessary emotional responses needed to sell motorcycles?

Because the product is football. In sports, we interrupt the actual game experience to talk about statistics. We display data on the screen with the action. We fill the sports pages of the newspaper with columns of statistics. For some sporting events, the only story in the paper is the box score. And yet these statistics generate emotion -- lots of it -- and spur people to action.

What's the difference? Is it a difference in statistical literacy, a training ground and expectations about using statistics when talking about sports? Not all sports fans, I think I can safely say, are trained statisticians or are necessarily comfortable with numbers outside of the sports arena. Is the issue of giving money to Rokia just that we're trained (through a series of exposures over time) that money to starving children is only given when Sally Struthers makes a personal appeal after showing wide-eyed sad children?

Why does data kill a story in one case, and end up crucial to the story in another? And how do we tell our stories so that data become integral to the story telling, part of the story, like knowing there were 3 little pigs or 7 dwarfs? How do we personalize data and invest it with the emotional overtones of the legitimate story it's telling us, so we can weep not only for Rokia for for the 11 million other Rokias who also need help?


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