Storytelling Lecture in Brazil

I just returned from a fascinating week in Belo Horizonte (Brazil), where we ran multiple workshops to build capacity to work with data in creative ways.  The trip was organized by the Office of Strategic Priorities of the State of Minas Gerais (they are members of the MIT Media Lab).  This post is one in a series about the workshops we ran there.

Data Therapy is usually about small hands-on workshops, but the “Storytelling with Data” workshop we scheduled in Belo Horizonte had 700 people sign up!  This event is part of a series of “Conecta” lectures the government has been hosting with guests from the MIT Media Lab.  Since the signups were so strong, we scrambled to find a larger venue and turned it into a lecture!  Clearly there is a a need to to start conversations and build community around the idea of data-driven storytelling.



Connecting the Media Lab’s approach, we introduced the ideas of sketching and playing with data as the way to empower people.  We framed it as opportunities to improve your work, the help your colleagues, and help your community.   We ran through the pieces of the process:

  1. asking yourself some questions to define your audience, goals, etc. (handout)
  2. asking your data some questions, to explore what it is telling you
  3. finding stories in your data, based on some templates of types of stories (handout)
  4. picking a data presentation technique, based on all the previous steps (handout)

Sounds boring when I write it like that, but in fact we have hands-on activities that make it fun along the way. More importantly, these activities open the process to non-data people in empowering ways (ie. building the concept of “popular data“).  However, because this was a lecture, we were only able to sprinkle in short pair-and-share activities along the way.  These actually got the participants talking to each other:


Here is the English copy of the presentation:


I’m not a huge fan of the lecture format – it sort of makes you feel more important than you really are.  One of our key goals was to improve connections within the community in Belo interested in this topic.  It turned out the short pair-and-shares that we did after each section of the talk worked super-well for this… so well that we had a hard time bringing people back after each!

In addition, people responded well to the you, your organization, your community framing we laid out.  It let folks that weren’t specifically focused on empowerment still connect to the content.

Movimento Minas wrote up some notes and linked to the presentation in Portuguese.  Raquel Carmargo also posted some pictures on Facebook.