User Stories

User Story: How Visual Content Drives Social Change in Africa

In this user story, we talk with Jerusha Govender, Founder and Director of Data Innovator, about how visual content is changing the game for non-profits she works with in Africa.

An information communication challenge exists for many social development initiatives in Africa. Jerusha Govender, Founder and Director of Data Innovator, knows the ins and outs of this challenge all too well. Data Innovator is a creative strategic information consultancy which provides services in planning, monitoring and evaluation, and communication.

Jerusha is passionate about the inventive use of data, and loves helping development organizations in Africa improve the way they use and communicate information:

For those of us in the non-profit development world, we know that our work is important and we like to think that it is changing lives. But we often present information in long, academic papers or reports that put even the staunchest supporter to sleep.

The ability to leverage quality data and tell a compelling story will drive social change. Jerusha says the solution for non-profit organizations is creating more visual content. Creating visual content from available data has been useful for organizations such as COPESSA to communicate the value of their work in South Africa.

Breaking it down

COPESSA – short for Community-based Prevention and Empowerment Strategies in South Africa – is a multiple award-winning community based organization whose team is focused day after day on the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

For COPESSA’s team, creating visual content has been helpful in condensing detailed information into simple and easy-to-understand chunks.

“Many not-for-profit organizations are often criticized for poor communication and lack of transparency, even though they do sterling work,” says Dr. Nobs Mwanda, CEO of COPESSA.

To communicate COPESSA’s sterling work, Jerusha and her team took a 60-page evaluation report COPESSA produced and turned it into this simple, easy to follow infographic. copessa_final_08sep2015-page-001-3423073

“The 60-page report was way too dense to distribute, so we simplified the key bits of information into an easy to read piece of visual content,” explained Jerusha.

We’ve noticed pretty data gets all the attention. Our team gave this development data the makeover it deserves by using Piktochart and other simple tools. With innovative data visualization and infographics, we transformed dry data into eye catching material.

Piktochart is one tool that Jerusha and her team use constantly to draw attention to a non-profit organization’s key findings, results, or advocacy efforts. Data Innovator is passionate about telling stories so that people not only see, but actually emotionally connect with, the impact of the great work being done all around Africa.

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Jerusha says if your non-profit or any other development organization is sitting on dense reports filled with valuable data you’d like to share with donors and supporters, there are five simple ways to take your complex data and turn it into beautiful visual content.

1. Use icons to draw attention to core issues

Much of the work non-profit organizations do is not simple. The challenge is to explain the complexity of what’s happening in the field without overloading a fan of your work. As an example, Jerusha says to look at the seemingly simple challenges to healthcare.

“An individual’s health is affected by the population density where he/she lives, the level of crime, gender inequity, access to health care, level of education, and the list continues,” she explains. “Information overload, you think? As smart as our potential funder may be, they want to get a quick and clear idea of the problem with valid evidence or statistics to set the backdrop of your organization’s work.”

One way to keep things simple is to use icons to highlight the core information.

Icons are graphic symbols or images that are used to represent an object, action, concept, or idea.

Icons can help a reader zoom in on a key figure, quickly. When scanning your complex reports, can you identify data that could be easily communicated using an icon? Are there instances you can pair an appropriate icon with an important statistic or finding?


2. Utilize maps to make geographic information instantly visual

Our team at Piktochart recently unveiled improved map visualizations because of the popularity we’ve seen when it comes to incorporating maps into infographics. After launch of this update, Jerusha was immediately on the list of happy users!

“Maps make locations easy for the reader to identify where exactly the initiative is located,” she explains. “When an initiative spans across multiple locations, it is vital for donors to visualize the scale of work.”

For COPESSA’s work, Data Innovator combined an eye-opening statistic with a map to channel focus on the key area of the organization’s work.  Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest HIV/AIDS burden in the world. By pairing a map of the continent with an important statistic for the organization, Jerusha could quickly demonstrate the need for the organization’s work in South Africa.


3. Create timelines to highlight key initiative events

If an organization’s dense report tells a story over time, consider sharing that story on a timeline.  “Timelines are a great way to present a series of key events, such as achievements or stages of implementation,” explains Jerusha. “They allow funders or interested collaborators to see how long you have been in the game and your experience level.”

Anyone can create a timeline by just using a basic line with text, but why not be more creative?

“There are so many fun timeline and process templates already designed in Piktochart which just require you to populate a series of key points,” suggests Jerusha. To view some creative ideas from our team here at Piktochart, check out our post on how to use timelines in infographics.


4. Insert photos overlaid with quotes or statement

Do you have an amazing story from a volunteer or someone who has been impacted by your organization’s work? Consider telling this story by using a photo overlaid with a quick quote.

Pairing a brilliant photo with an inspirational statement can show how the lives of single individuals have changed because of an organization’s work.

“Photos and quotes give the personal touch to social development initiative reports,” says Jerusha.

It helps the reader identify with the actual person who benefits from your initiative. Upload image which strongly portray the work you do or the people you serve. By making use of shapes, reducing the transparency levels, and adding a provoking quote, you further enhance the power of this visual element.


5. Boil down complex financial data using simple charts

Chances are an organization’s complex reports include financial data. To illustrate simple cost projections, consider using line graphs to show an organization’s financial health over time.

“The bottom line for many donors interested in advancing the work of a social initiative is how much it will or has cost them,” says Jerusha.

A line graph is perfect for presenting a trend over time. Using it to present expenditures and budgets helps clarify how much you managed, the growth, and projected costs or money the initiative would need. Adding icons can further enhance the image of need or giving.


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Looking for more ways to turn complex non-profit organization findings into digestible chunks for supporters? Take a look at our template for non-profit organization annual reports and read tips for how to make this template your own!

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