Copy of Let's talk Data
Copy of Let's talk Data

Copy of Let's talk Data


A training workshop created by Tom Watson for social purpose organisations on behalf of Vonne and The Digital Path Finders Programme

You can find more from Tom at

Everything here is creative commons, feel free to use it, share it, whatever it. Attribution required (and just generally nice 😎 )

What is this?

This is a defined as a masterclass. The content used here was delivered remotely over 2x3hr sessions. It is pitched with the idea that data skills and knowledge are minimal. Let's Talk Data 1 is a broad look at data, Lets Talk Data 2 is a deeper look at some aspects of data.

How to make best use of it?

You can use it anyway that works for you, dip in and just pull out some links, or go through the whole thing and do the exercises

Let's Talk Data 1

Contents (use the toggle icon to expand the details below)

What is data?

For the purposes of this workshop we are defining data as:


individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often but not always numeric.

Types of data

For general definition of types of data this graphic is a good one.

By João Batista Neto - Data types - pt br.svg, CC BY 3.0,

During this workshop we used a specific data type definition which is more relevant to social purpose organisations.


The most common request for help from organisations generally focuses on these aspects


Collecting data

Good Data Principle

Do the simplest that could possibly work

Collecting data should be about the simplest approach for getting the data you need to answer the questions you have. It should also be about making that data as structured and easy to work with as possible.

A scenario


The Northern Knitters Club are an organisation that wants to use knitting to bring people together. They run a few different programmes and want to start collecting data to understand their work better and learn.

They run ‘Knit Together’ sessions in different venues, on different days at different times of day.  They advertise these sessions with posters, in local newspapers and on facebook.


Start with some questions

What time of the day should we run our sessions on to reach the most people?

Which days should we run our sessions to reach the most people?

Where should we advertise our sessions to reach the most people?

What venue should we run our sessions at to reach the most people

Do people come for one session or are they regular returners?


Use a data collection tool to find data which can answer the questions above. Keep the approach simple. The example below used Google Forms and Google Sheets. Do this yourself before looking at the forms below

One example of collecting some of the data needed to anaswer questions

The Form links to a Google Sheet which allows for easy collection and structuring of data

There are many tools available to help you collect data. Some simple examples are:

I especially love Tally Forms, Airtable and simple Google Forms

Storing and analysing data


Data on it's own doesn't really tell you anything. You need to do something with it to get knowledge. So let's start looking at the data we gathered in the previous step.


Good Data Principle

Keep data clean

Leave your original data in tact. Do your analysis or manipulation somewhere will thank me later!


Let's do some quick analysis on the data we collected earlier using Pivot Tables. Pivot tables are your friend. You can do some super data analysis using nothing more than Pivot Tables. Below is a really quick example of setting a pivot table up in google sheets using the data we had previously collected. Importantly I don't touch the original data, I do it on a seperate sheet.

From there you can play with adding different rows, values and how the data is returned. In this example I show getting the data into rows, adding values and then changing the value property to show average values rather than totals.


Have a go at setting a pivot table up yourself. Remember - do the analysis on a seperate sheet.

During the course we also looked at using another source to take a different look at the data. When using the pivot table approach, it looked at first glance that a wednesday had the highest average attendance. I demonstrated taking the same data into AIRTABLE to have a different look. Demo is below.

  1. I imported the same data from a google sheet
  2. Airtable did some auto processing
  3. I used the GROUP function and grouped by day of the week
  4. I could quickly see that wednesday only had one session, and even though it was highly attended that had skewed the average in the pivot table. Note, this could have been picked up in the pivot table, but I wanted to show a different tool for looking at data.
External data

Good Data Principle

Use data that is already available before collecting your own

There are a huge range of data sources out there already that may be able to answer or at least help answer many of the questions you may have. Use it! Here are some interesting sources below that might be useful


A whole list of data resources are also found on

Data For Action

Good Data Principle

Data should be about taking action

If there is one take away from this then this is it. Use a simple process to think though



What questions you want to answer

What will the answer enable you do

How will it support your aims

ONLY then think through the data

And who will do the work


And if you want to use a tool to help you structure that the ever excellent Tom French has put one together and you find it here

The full slides are here

Let's Talk Data 2 (coming soon)