Shifting from data to action

data to action nesbit

I’d love to see implementers and tool-providers shift away from data collection and towards creating local action. Here’s my reasoning:

1. Especially in the case of mobile technology, data can be a byproduct of action – e.g. clinicians and community health workers can use mobile phones to coordinate patient care, use identifiers, and produce a longitudinal record of care that can be aggregated with other records, analyzed, visualized, etc.

2. These systems involve people. Imagine someone tells you, “Please report, because we need data.” Now imagine they say, instead, “We need information.” Or, “We need to know.” Finally, “We need to act.” Which framing builds the greatest incentive for participation?

3. It takes action to achieve impact. Yes, large data sets that inform policy are important — reiterating my first point, I’d argue we’ll have that data anyway due to the nature of the technology. At the end of the day, for a situation to change, someone needs to do something differently. Our programs should reflect that reality.

Local actors want change through action. Policymakers want data to inform decisions. Luckily, technology can deliver both.

Posted: May 31st, 2010
Categories: Technology
Comments: 33 Comments.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ingrid Kopp, James BonTempo. James BonTempo said: I see the "data exhaust"… RT @joshnesbit: New blog post: Shifting from data to action. [...]

Comment from Israel Kloss - May 31, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Well said, but there is an inherent disconnect between the information and the action the information should necessitate on our part.

Let me quote some lyrics from Jackson Browne’s song “Information Wars”:
“Beyond the hundred million darkened living rooms out where the human ocean roars. Into the failing light, the generations go, heading for the information wars.”

“And there’s a front row seat for the precious few. The latest war as a pay-per-view. Famine and disaster right in front of you. And the more you watch the less you do.”

“And in the flickering light and the comforting glow. You get the world every night as a TV show. The latest spin on the shit we’re in, blow by blow. And the more you watch, the less you know.”

This kind of information-overload based action apathy can’t only *partly* be countered directly these kinds of (great) posts above…. its gonna take more *inspiration* and less *information*…

What lawmakers need *isn’t* more data about these suffering populations worldwide.
They don’t have what they need to act with the information they *have* — courage and empathy…

This is about the people… people *taking action* by speaking up… people like my friend Faith McDonnell (right here in DC) who’s been in this from far before you or I and from way before it became a cool fad to raise your voice with Bono on Africa. See more about her selfless, tireless work here:

Josh, don’t underestimate the power of faith in creating a sustainable, life long strategy not unlike the guys at Invisible Children have *inspired*… and inspiration is exactly the business they are in (err… 1 million dollar Citi-Bank *non-profit* winner, I should say)

What I’m trying to say:
It’s not about more *information*. Lawmakers need no more *information* but GAP MINDER… (… they aren’t being *inspired* by their consistents to give a damn!

It’s about *inspiration* and *empowerment*
It’s like the story of Pat Pelham in Alabama who *inspired* enough Alabama constituents to demand debt relief that Spencer Bachus (R-AL) couldn’t turn away!

Both *inspiration* and *empowerment* are harder won by spreading data around… and easier won by other things you and I are doing… speaking… presenting… arguing… setting up meetings until you’re just sick of it… But my proposal goes less into expanding data proliferation and more into spreading *inspiration* through the *sustainability* of group action here:

Ever heard of Pledge Bank? I have a proposal for a challenge to you and your readers that goes far beyond data and deeper into immediate *action*. Why don’t you contact me when you’re ready?

Comment from Katherine Warman Kern - September 20, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Josh, Totally agree. If it’s action we want, we aren’t going to get there figuring out how to get everyone’s data into the archives. Timing is much more important. You want to know what is relevant NOW. It could make all that archival data obsolete. And the process of making sense of timely data is much simpler because it is in context.

Katherine Warman Kern

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