Visualizing Impact: Data brought back to stories

Disclaimer: Visualizing Impact is an MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab alumni; Arab Startup Competition Winner of Social Entrepreneurship track, 2015. This case study was originally included in MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab's latest edition of an impact report titled 'Arab Entrepreneurship Maturity Index: Insights and Forecasts' published in partnership with Roland Berger.

In 2011, Ramzi Jaber and Joumana Al Jabri co-curated TEDxRamallah, an event that took place in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan and whose objective was to discuss ideas worth sharing with Palestinians and non-Palestinians alike. The event reached communities in over 20 cities around the world via a livestream and caused a buzz on social media – a considerable success in the most difficult circumstances of occupation.

However, in the wake of the event, Ramzi became much more attuned to facts on the ground in Palestine, and to injustices facing Palestinians at large. He became acutely aware that if he, as a Palestinian who grew up outside of Palestine, had had such scarce knowledge of the facts on the ground, how could others, with a less direct connection, understand the gravity of the injustices? In turn, Ramzi developed a vision, shared by Joumana, that communication was at the heart of change towards justice.

Together, and with an immensely dedicated few, they built Visualizing Impact – a visual communication platform weaving together data and information design to communicate factual narratives for social justice. Visualizing Palestine's content was, and continues to be, widely successful. It has been used across the world in academia, international media and has been reposted in numerous print publications. In 2013, Visualizing Palestine registered under the name of Visualizing Impact (VI), a brand more reflective of an aim to broaden its horizons and communicate critical social issues and systems of injustice from around the world. Visualizing Palestine remains the primary project of focus.

Versatile by Nature

VI has received international recognition from a variety of entities, each classifying it as a success within their respective field. For example, Prix Ars Electronica (Austria) showcased VI as a leader in digital media, Kantar's Information is Beautiful (London) in information design, and Deutsche Welle's BOB's award (Germany) in social activism. This ultimately demonstrates the versatility of VI's content and its unique applicability across different industries.

Holistic view of impact tracking

With content designed to be shared freely and widely both online and offline, a challenge VI faced was how to assess the impact and effectiveness of their tools. While they used standard analytics tools for their website and social media to quantify direct reach, they found this to be an inadequate measure of impact. They introduced a download system, where users fill out a short form to gain access to high quality files. Through this, they were able to track their content being downloaded by people in 65 countries. Additionally, the tools were flexible enough to be used in 20 different types of spaces where people used Visualizing Palestine material from 2015 to 2018, including college campuses, subway station billboards, UN meetings, conferences, classrooms, churches and student groups at more than 106 different universities.

Enablers of widespread communication

VI's mission is to spread information, usually drowned out by mainstream media, through data visualization media. To date, VI's community has used its tools for advocacy and education, along with other uses, in over 424 cities across 65

countries.

VI was able to secure widespread reach and inherent drive to achieve its mission, enhanced by their choice to license their now over 100 infographics as Creative Commons. As such, VI's visuals are available to download at no cost.

This accessibility has led to the reposting and distribution of their work, resulting in some infographics being translated into 13 languages other than Arabic and English, including Finnish, Basque, Mandarin, German and Farsi, by third party entities. In doing so, VI does not limit its reach to first-hand access to its content, but rather enable partners and other third parties to localize and distribute it beyond VI's immediate reach. This shows the power of its content and its universal relevance.

Today, VI's primary revenue streams consist of the Visualizing Palestine membership program, sales of data-based artwork, grants and philanthropists. Striving towards autonomy and sustainability, the Visualizing Palestine membership program, to which over 500 people have already subscribed [4], is projected to contribute a monthly or annual online fee that exceeds $70,000 per year collectively at an average of $12 per month per member. The success of the membership program could become an example for other social enterprises in the region to follow in the absence or scarcity of such precedents locally and in the face of increasingly strained sources of funds from the typical grants and philanthropists.

The team behind Visualizing Impact has proven that personal drive matched with a wider social purpose can result in success. They encourage aspiring social entrepreneurs to trust their intuition and believe in their cause, while actively and regularly reflecting on the purpose of their venture and constantly adapting their means of achieving it


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