Mind the Gap – Gapminder

I can’t stop looking at and playing with this website: Gapminder. It’s really amazing. It gives you, at just a glimpse pretty much every kind of socio-economic and environmental data (and then some…I just spent some time looking at livestock statistics…not sure where they fit in to those two categories) imaginable at local, national, and global levels over time with one of the best graphical means to tell a story: the bubble chart. Bubble charts rock. Three parameters, one graph, a TON of information. Gapminder, through software called Trendalyzer, has done the unthinkable and improved upon the static bubble chart by representing it in time series. Gapminders aim is to promote a fact-based world view through increased use and understanding of freely accessible public statistics. 

In the world of the techno-nerd, Gapminder is old news (the foundation has been around since 2005), but I just came across it again recently and was reminded of its awesomeness.

Gapminder accepts data based on a specific set of requirements, one of these being that the time period the information is collected over is at least 10 years. One of my goals is to start contributing data to Gapminder. Starting this year, Nuru is gathering data in rural, remote, extremely poor regions of the world. We have a five-year planned exit strategy in each of our communities, but if we ask the local community members who are managing the work that Nuru starts to continue gathering data after Nuru exits a community, or if we go back to communities we’ve exited to gather data once a year, we’ll be able to contribute to Gapminder in ten years. This way we’ll make it so that more than just four countries can be analyzed on a regional level, and we’ll be contributing to greater knowledge about the state of the world and the gaps between those who have and those who don’t.

That little tidbit aside, we are nearing our visit to Africa faster than I can believe! Myself and my Senior Research Officer, Stephanie, along with our two evaluators, Sarah (Bain Consulting) and Crystal (Choice Humanitarian) are getting on a plane in less than a month and making the trek to Kuria to start our evaluation. The evaluators’ schedule while we’re there is absolutely jam-packed with interviews, focus groups, other sorts of data gathering, and analysis of the data they gather. Stephanie’s purpose will be to facilitate all that work, and mine to supervise. I must admit I am nervous. This is a REALLY big deal for Nuru.

The purpose of Sarah and Crystal’s efforts will be twofold: to assess the poverty level of Kuria using the metrics system we have developed and to assess our metrics system itself. As far as the first half of their mission, I’m not too nervous about that. I know that the community’s state of existence has improved since we gathered our baseline data early this year and last Fall. It’s the second half that makes me nervous. I know already that our system is not perfect. I have to get past my urge to feel personally connected to this list of 189 Metrics because of the hand I had in developing and refining them this year, and remember that change, in the form of improvement, is vital for us! The system MUST be evaluated in order to be improved, and I know that Sarah and Crystal won’t hold back in evaluating it.

Moving on to my third unrelated issue in this post, I need to get the word out about some work we’re doing on the Research Team in areas other than our system of Metrics. Our team is in charge of keeping Nuru on the cutting edge of work in extreme poverty alleviation. To THAT end, I manage a team of ridiculously great, talented, and generous volunteers. I know we here at Nuru tend to use language like that a lot, but please know that I DON’T typically. The volunteers who work for us do things for us that I would never have been willing to do back when I worked in other jobs or was a full-time student, as many of them are. They spend their free time digging up information about obscure topics like hypothecation in the developing world and mobile rapid detection HIV tests and writing up very comprehensive reports for our team in the field on such topics. I mention all this because next month we’re going to start trying to share some of their work on this forum through our Best Stuff Out There report. The BSOT, as we affectionately call it, is a list of the most interesting, discussion-worthy, and applicable published articles about anything in the field of poverty reduction that Matt Dodge (a volunteer), Stephanie Jayne, Aerie Changala produce monthly. Right now, we only share this document internally. Starting in the coming months, we will share it here on this forum for all to see and use, and we will include some Nuru-produced research projects! It is exciting.

Ok, that’s it for now. My next post will be from Africa, I think, so get ready!