Earlier this week I submitted a visualization for the latest #VizForSocialGood project. I have been following the project since the beginning of the year and I’m happy I’ve finally had the opportunity to get involved properly. As you may not have heard of the project before, let me fill you in.
What is #VizForSocialGood?
Towards the end of 2016 I published a viz on suicides in UK prisons. You can view it here. I heard a news story on the radio around this time about the increase in prison suicides so decided to find the data in question and interrogate it in Tableau, as a learning exercise more than anything. I published the finished viz to Tableau Public and Twitter and left it at that. However, not long afterwards Chloe Tseng tweeted me to say I had produced a #VizForSocialGood. She even featured the viz on her website, Vizforsocialgood.com (with my permission):
At the time I had no idea what a ‘viz for social good’ was or how I had managed to (unknowingly) make one so I decided to check out Chloe’s website to learn more. Chloe explains on her website:
“Viz for Social Good is a platform for data visualization enthusiasts who aspire to empower mission-driven organizations and increase awareness of social issues through beautiful and informative visualizations. We provide viz projects and datasets from nonprofits for data visualization lovers to explore, learn, and make impact”.
Back in December the #VizForSocialGood project was just getting started so I can be forgiven for not knowing much about it at the time! However, since February 2017 Chloe has organised nine different #VizForSocialGood projects for a variety of charities and NGO’s ranging from Unicef to Stanford University. In fact, in May #VizForSocialGood even partnered with #MakeoverMonday to produce visualisations on youth unemployment in Latin America & the Caribbean for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Unfortunately due to various reasons I haven’t been able to participate in #VizForSocialGood as much as I would have liked. I participated during the #MakeoverMonday week but otherwise I haven’t taken part in the other projects. Needless to say the community have produced some fantastic visualisations for the named charities, some of which can be viewed on the #VizForSocialGood website.
#VizForSocialGood meets Data+Women
Back in July I was particularly excited to hear that Data+Women London were going to be running a live #VizForSocialGood event. I am a keen supporter of Data+Women, the London branch of which is led by Emily Chen , so you can imagine my excitement when I learned that the two initiatives would be joining forces for this special event. The charity selected this time was the Central Asia Institute (CAI), a charity that seeks to provide education to those in need, particularly women in Central Asia.
CAI currently run four tent schools in Afghanistan for over 4,000 children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend school. However, as the number of people returning to Afghanistan increases the existing tent schools simply can’t cope with the ever-increasing demand. CAI have submitted a proposal which would enable them to fund a further 45 tent schools, providing the opportunity of an education to 5,445 children. However, they need to raise $66,172 (USD) to cover the cost of the materials, maintenance, etc. This is where #VizForSocialGood can help. CAI are hoping to share selected visualisations submitted as part of the project on social media, in their magazine and on their website to help raise awareness of the new campaign and ultimately help them to raise the much-needed funds they require to proceed.
I was lucky enough to attend the live event held at the Tableau HQ in London on 27th July. The event was hosted by Emily and Amanda Patist. Approximately 30 individuals attended on the evening (not 100% female….there were a few guys who attended too) and together we watched a short video message from Chloe who explained what #VizForSocialGood was all about. Emily and Amanda also gave a brief introduction to the charity and the project brief before we got to work on the data.
Chloe provided a number of datasets and supporting information from CAI on a Google Drive for us to work with. To be fair Chloe really spoilt us with all the resources which were provided. In terms of data Chloe provided some information on refugee numbers from Unicef , details of the number of refugee children in education and some information on the existing CAI tent schools in Afghanistan.
As always I like to do some background reading on the subject I am visualizing before diving into the data. While the data provided was useful I found it slightly confusing that we were provided with data on refugees numbers from all over the world, given the initiative is based in Afghanistan. I (and many others in the room) initially thought this meant that the tent schools were catering for refugees from surrounding countries that were living in Afghanistan. It was only after doing some of my own research that I realized the tent schools were actually for Afghans returning to Afghanistan after being moved from their homes in Pakistan and Iran. Many Afghan’s have fled to Pakistan and Iran since 1979 following the Soviet invasion and they have been hosting large Afghan refugee populations ever since. Despite the lack of meaningful improvement in living conditions in Afghanistan, Pakistan has refused to register any new Afghan refugees since early 2007 while prospects for local integration for Afghans living in Iran are limited. As a result, there has been a significant increase in the number of ‘displaced’ Afghan’s returning to Afghanistan in recent years and the number is expected to exceed 1.5 million very soon. It is this returnee population that the CAI project will be targeting.
The Great Data Hunt
I was sitting next to Emma Whyte from the Information Lab at the Data+Women event when she found a graph on the IMF website suggesting there had been a significant increase in people returning to Afghanistan since 2015:
Unfortunately the data that we had been provided only went up to 2015. Given the increase in the severity of the situation in Afghanistan I felt it was important to include as recent statistics as possible so Emma and I went on a hunt to find the data behind this chart. We tried the source cited below the chart to no avail so began searching on Google in the hope we would eventually find the data we needed.
Emma caused much excitement when she stumbled across this beauty (click here for the interactive version….I know you can’t resist):
Emily Chen likened this to an eye test given that the pie charts get smaller as you scroll down the page! If you know me you will know how I feel about pie charts. I appreciate sometimes (by only rarely) pie charts can be used effectively but in this case the pie charts are sized by the number of asylum seekers meaning that some of the pie charts are so small you can hardly see them! It actually upsets me that this was produced in Tableau. The author could have used the data to produce something so much more meaningful. In my opinion Tableau should never be used to produce something like this.
Despite searching for the remainder of the live session neither of us were able to find the data we needed so I continued my search at home. Eventually I found the UNHCR Population Statistics website. This features a fantastic data portal which allows you to customise the data to meet your needs before downloading. Through this portal I was able to download the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) and refugee statistics I was looking for.
Pulling it all together
I did so much background reading for this project! I was really intrigued by the subject and wanted to understand as much as I could about the issues before building my viz. I eventually had to tell myself to stop doing anymore research as I would have never finished.
Included with the reference documents provided by Chloe was the CAI style guide. I am a sucker for rules so I found this very useful. I decided to use the official CAI colour palette (primarily of green, blue, yellow and pink) throughout my viz. I also tried to mimic the style used in the CAI “Journey of Hope” print magazines which are available online.
I knew I needed to include a lot of text in my visualisation to explain the context and the initiative itself. However, I wanted to keep the graphs separate so I decided to add a ‘at a glance’ section down the left-hand size which can be used for reference. I think this gives the overall viz more of a magazine-page feel.
In terms of images I wanted to include a photo taken at one of the existing tent schools. While the CAI provided some photos for us to use there weren’t many to choose from. I really would have liked to include an image of a girl at tent school smiling or playing with her friends but I struggled to find one and was reluctant to include one from another source due to copywrite, etc. In the end I settled on one of the images provided in the CAI library.
The finished article
Here is my completed entry.
(click here to view an interactive version in Tableau Public):
I am really happy with how it turned out and I hope it can help CAI to raise the funds which they desperately need.
If you haven’t already I urge you to visit the #VizForSocialGood website and get involved in some of the projects if you can. Chloe posts new projects on a regular basis so there is always something to choose from.
Thanks for reading.