Alexandra Samuel to Offer Keynote on Storytelling with Data at #14LCS


This September 3-6, NTEN will debut the Leading Change Summit. Regardless of which department or team you’re a part of at your organization, data—the collection, analysis, and use of it for your work—has most likely come up more than once. Do you have a data plan? We are thrilled to announce Alexandra Samuel as an LCS keynote speaker, because she will change your relationship to data.

samuelalex.headshot.jpgAlexandra Samuel is the VP of Social Media for Vision Critical, a customer intelligence software company, where she has authored two landmark studies based on large-scale consumer data: Sharing is the New Buying: How to Win in the Collaborative Economy, and From Social to Sale.  As the founder of Social Signal, one of the world’s first social media agencies, Alexandra helped to create some of the web’s most ambitious online communities, including NetSquared and Tyze. She blogs for the Harvard Business Review, and her writing on technology issues has appeared in media outlets like the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, Macworld, and

Alexandra will address how we tell stories with data, sharing a roadmap for your organization to create a data plan, understanding staff support, and share stories of your work. She believes that the data revolution is here and will present ideas on community-owned data in this rapidly changing world. To get a jump-start on conversations for LCS, we asked Alexandra a few questions, shared below.

Infographics have certainly risen in popularity the last few years as a way to help use data in our storytelling. But not all infographics really do that. Any tips for identifying the right data or visualizing it in a way that can help illustrate the story of a nonprofit’s work?

It’s helpful to distinguish between infographics and data visualization: you can have an infographic that tells a story visually but isn’t actually data-driven. Whenever you are producing an infographic, it’s important to ask whether this is a story that actually needs (or at least would benefit from) a visual treatment, and if so, what the single most important thing you want your viewer/reader to take away from it. Your infographic should then be structured around delivering that story or insight, and any data you use should clearly support that main point. Where a lot of infographics and data visualization projects go wrong is by trying to fit the story around the data, or trying to do too much: while your data may inform what your story is (because you definitely don’t want to twist the data to support a narrative) your data and visuals should always be in support of your key message.

We’ve heard of the “sharing economy,” but what really does get us to share?

The sharing economy is a term that encompasses a wide range of different activities and businesses, from AirBnb and Uber to Etsy and Craigslist. What’s really exciting for communities is its potential to change how we consume, how we work, and how we connect with other people in our community. In our project with Jeremiah Owyang and Crowd Companies, we used the term “collaborative economy” to talk about a wide range of ways in which people are choosing access over ownership (by renting or borrowing instead of buying), or getting what they need from each other (instead of from traditional companies). We see that kind of sharing across a whole range of categories: goods, services, space, transportation, and money. What’s really remarkable—and what we were able to establish only because we talked to more than 90,000 people in three countries—is that 40% of the adult online population is now part of this economy…that’s 80 million sharers in the US alone.

If you could suggest just one thing to every nonprofit getting started with data collection and analysis, what would it be?

As with any new field, you’re better off watching and learning before you plunge in yourself. Once you start paying attention to the people who are using data and data visualization effectively, you’ll be in a much better position to think about how data can drive your own work, or how infographics can help you tell your own story. So set up a news search or set of RSS subscriptions that will pull in the very best data and infographics in your field: adding search terms like “data visualization,” “infographics,” and “big data” to a search string that includes your typical issue/area keywords is a great place to start. For example: cancer AND (“data visualization” OR analytics OR infographic OR “big data”).

Learn more about Alexandra Samuel via her website or follow her on Twitter at @awsamuel.

And check out the full lineup of #14LCS speakers and facilitators!