Actionable Data Advocates

A small, working, and somewhat scattered, collection of some of my favorite advocates of actionable data:

Michael Quinn Patton: A gentleman and a scholar — Patton has authored several volumes of Utilization-Focused Evaluation as well as Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use. He is a long-time and wise advocate of evaluation practices on use-focused and relevant data collection and analysis.

Edward Tufte: Author of the classic The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and several other wonderful texts on what makes for good data visualization, a key to making data useful and seeing that it’s used.

Hans Rosling and Gapminder: Apparently I’ve come a little late to the Hans Rosling celebration, but I’m thrilled to have found him. For an awesome BBC special that really will ignite (or renew) your enthusiasm for statistics click here and enjoy.

Tableau: Ok, a software company, but again, a key to moving from data to action is in making that data understandable and accessible, and Tableau is one very very slick way to produce accessible and interactive data visualizations.

The New York Times: Again, maybe this is a stretch, but my interest in creative data visualization as mechanism with which to make data useful has been sparked time and again by New York Times posts. For example, this post about public opinions on Occupy Wall Street or this post on well-being in the US.

No list like this would be complete without Kurt Lewin, who is said to have created the term action research way back in 1944. Action research per Lewin: “a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action and research leading to social action” using “a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action, and fact-finding about the result of the action” (“Action Research and Minority Problems,” 1946). I’ll try to explore Lewin’s ideas and how they relate to my conceptualization of actionable data in a future post.

Disclaimer: this is far from a complete list of important leaders in work on actionable data, action oriented research, evaluation use, and data visualization – all of which are deeply connected in my mind. In fact, this is a fascinating blog post proposing a storied history of action-oriented research well before the term was coined. Extra fascinating — this blog includes bell hooks — and I’ve recently begun reading her book Teaching to Transgress: Education As the Practice of Freedom, on loan from a university colleague.

Who have I missed? Who are your favorites? I hope to move this to the sidebar so that it can grow as I learn more from you.

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