Fifty Shades of Data

Thanks to new technologies, we’re collecting increasing volumes of data. Our fast-growing online databank now includes more than 100,000 records, it’s actually increased sevenfold in only the past year! We’re aware that our data might seem complex from the outside and so we’ve been working on making it more user friendly to ensure that managers and executives in our organization and the general public can easily understand it. We’ve particularly been focusing on creating visualisations so we’ve worked on dataviz with OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange and recently launched our own VAM DataViz Platform. Check out years of agro-climatic data from around the world! Our mVAM data is coming soon! With all this DataViz work going on, we were therefore interested in Tableau – a widely used data analytics and visualization package – to improve and share visuals of our household data.

We decided to do a 3-day prototyping session on Tableau giving us a few days dedicated to understanding the software and applying it to our use cases. Our partners at the Center for Innovation at Leiden University facilitated the event and provided us with a venue and Tableau sent two of its specialists to show us the ropes. It was great to come together as a group to hone our skills.  The WFP participants were organized into teams that worked on different products like dashboards and storyboards.  The best product ended up being a dashboard that displayed food security and market indicators in Yemen:


One lesson that came out of the workshop was that deciding what to show on a dataviz is probably the most difficult thing to do. Understanding who the audience is and defining a message turned out to be much more of a challenge than the technical implementation. The teams that sketched out their products on paper first ended up producing the best results in the end. As in much of our experience with tech tools, the objective and the process matter much more than the shiny new toy.

winners picture for mvam blog post on Tableau

On the last day of the session we worked together with the guys from Tableau and successfully managed to embed the prototypes, incorporating them into our DataViz portal, confirming our ‘Proof of Concept’. We’re now working with open source dataviz tools, including D3, that have complementary functionalities so that we can create our hybrid portal and start putting the vision we have for our data into practice.

We’re now hoping to blow you away with outstanding data viz products, making mVAM information more tailored to the needs of readers. So keep an eye on our website!

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