Taking Data Literacy to the next level.

As part of an annual training week at the Netherlands Red Cross (NLRC), the 510 team initiated and organised its very first one-day workshop on data literacy for the international department of NLRC. Project coordinators, country representatives, program managers, technical consultants, unit leads and many others, experienced the potential of using open data and innovative data technologies. Several examples were shown on how to collect survey data using mobile technology when there is no internet connection, and how to use interactive, dynamic maps for the purpose of information management.

Data literacy helps to go from ‘data’ to ‘information’ to ‘understanding’

Going from ‘data’ to ‘information’ to ‘understanding’ requires finding relevant data, interpreting data, converting data into information in the form of charts or maps, sharing and ultimately using that information to help in decision-making and making an impact. Data literacy  encompasses a mix of behaviours, competences and skills that help users achieve that. At an awareness level, data literacy is about getting familiar with the opportunities and limitations of using (open) data and innovative data technologies.

Workshop objectives

It was certainly not the intention of the workshop to turn participants into data skilled employees in one day, but rather to enable them to:

  1. Experience the potential of using (open) data in international programs
  2. Understand the capacity needs for implementing data activities in their programs
  3. Actively follow a discussion about the data life cycle and data technologies
  4. Signal the potentially irresponsible use of data

Presenters and facilitators of 510, having a background in data analysis, international law, geographical information systems or data visualization delivered the following sessions:

  • Data collection: Where to find relevant data? How to collect survey data using mobile technology?
  • Data integration: How to combine different formats of data from various sources using MS Excel? What are potential pitfalls when combining data? What are good practices and bad practices?
  • Data responsibility: How does data responsibility differ from data protection? What are possible consequences of an irresponsible use of data? Where in the data Life cycle do we apply data responsibility?
  • Data visualisation: What are good and bad examples of maps/visuals? What are the differences between infographics, online dashboards and interactive maps?

Every training session comprised of a theoretical part, covering the basics, and a hands-on part with exercises to reinforce the learnings.

To really sense the meaning of “going digital”, nearly all training materials, presentations etc were provided in a digital format only (no paper). Mentimeter was used to gather participants real time responses to questions per topic.

Participants’ feedback

The workshop was well received by the participants and all topics were found to be relevant for their work.  Specifically, participants appreciated the mix of theory and practice of all sessions, the reflections on data responsibility and how and where 510 can help with data visualisations.


As a follow-up, in a couple of months from now, 510 will reach out to the participants to see how, where and to what extent they have applied the learnings from the workshop in their international projects and programs.

The IFRC will be organising a Regional Data Skills Workshop on 24-25 October in Budapest. 510 has been invited to present and facilitate sessions on data visualization and data responsibility.

510 is available to reproduce or adapt this workshop for any location & audience, for further information please contact


Heather Leson (data literacy lead at IFRC) for sharing best practices and valuable training materials, and the 510 team of presenters and facilitators for their dedication in preparing and delivering the workshop.

Written by Kamal Ahmed 510 Data Analyst & Data Responsibility

Further reading:

Getting Data Ready with IFRC Europe

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