Data & Storytelling Workshop

This workshop will help participants understand how to build compelling stories from datasets. We start with focusing on the ‘who’ we are telling the story to and how to craft a narrative that is compelling to them. We then explore the data that the participants are working with and draft stories for our audiences.  

We drafted this curriculum in collaboration with Mor Rubinstein for 360Giving partners who are using data for more effective grantmaking. It could be used for anyone using data in their social change efforts.

What you will need:

  • 4 to 16 Participants
  • Three to Three and a half Hours
  • A room with plenty of space, a circle of chairs in the middle, tables on the wall for small group work.
  • Flip Chart Paper, Markers

What you might do:

  • Introductions [5 minutes] – we recommend a quick go-round with each participant stating their name, where they are from and ONE sentence on why they came to the workshop.
  • Review the Agenda [5 minutes]  Workshop Goals & Guidelines
  • Tell a story [15 Minutes] In pairs or groups of three, each participant should tell each other the story of why they do the do the work they do OR a story about their journey to get to the workshop.
  • What makes a good story? [20 Minutes] In large group plenary, ask the group to reflect on the stories they just heard. What made them a good story, what was compelling? Use flip chart paper to jot down their points.
    • When appropriate reinforce or raise that a good story is:
      • Is about people
      • Has a conflict
      • Is vivid
      • Is crafted for an audience so that it is:
        1. Is easy to re-tell
        2. Is relatable and recognisable
    • It can also be helpful to remember the five ‘W’s’ (from Journalism): Who? What? Where? When? And why?
Photo by Mor Rubinstein
  • To whom are we telling the story? [30 Minutes]  How much do we know about our audiences? Break participants into pairs OR teams if they are working with the same data for the same efforts and ask them to :
    1. Identify the who. Ask them to do a quick brainstorm and list the stakeholders they are trying to engage. Ask them to prioritise a critical audience.
    2. Thinking of that key audience, can they think of an individual who would represent that audience well? Ask them to think about that individual and on a half-sheet of flipchart paper create a user profile with:
      • Name
      • Occupation
        • Skills in relation to their occupation
      • Values (how do they want to be seen?)
      • What are the motivations for getting involved in the issue?
      • What are the key barriers to getting involved in the issue?
      • How do they stay up to date on the issue?
      • How will they hear your story?
      • Who might they retell your story?
      • What do you want them to do as a result of hearing your story?
    3. Finish with a quick review of the profiles. Ask each group to put their profiles where everyone can see them. They can use walls or the floor. Ask everyone to look at each other’s user profiles and see if they have any clarifying questions or comments.
  • Break [20 minutes]
Photo by Mor Rubenstein

  • What stories does the data tell? [20 minutes] With the large group, review the elements of a good story you came up with earlier in the workshop. Then ask participants to return to their pairs or teams, ask them to review their datasets. Start with asking: what stories does the data tell you?
  • Draft stories for their audiences [20 Minutes]. Review their user profiles and draft a story they think would be compelling? Use half-sheets of flipchart paper to draft their story.
  • Story-telling [10 Minutes] A pair should join another pair, OR each team should join with another team. They should tell each other their stories.
  • What works and what doesn’t [20 Minutes] based on what they have just heard, ask them what works and what doesn’t when building a story from data. Jot down the responses on a piece of flipchart paper.
  • Where from here? [20 minutes] Ask participants to break back into their data/story pairs or teams and think about what next – what will they do when they leave the workshop. Can they find members of their audiences to tell their stories to and get a reaction? After they have had a few minutes to discuss next steps, ask each group to share what they will do next.

Resources for the workshop:

  • Telling Tales with Data – Mor’s experiences in adding plotlines to the data pipeline.
  • The Story Behind the Story: Obstacles and Promising Techniques in Storytelling for Transparency and Accountability. Jed Miller with Alison Miranda, Transparency and Accountability Initiative.
  • The Tyranny of Story. Journalist John Harris examines the potency of narrative. BBC Radio 4 Podcast

Got something to say about this workshop?

Our workshops are always in prototype and are constantly being improved. Let us know if you are interested in running this workshop OR have done a similar workshop we could learn from. Please send an email to workshops (at)