McDowell receives grant to help community organizations tell their stories

Kate McDowell
Kate McDowell, Associate Professor

Associate Professor Kate McDowell has received funding from the Center for Social and Behavioral Science Small Grant program at the University of Illinois to help community organizations tell more effective data stories.

The goal of the "Data Storytelling for Community Organizations" project is to develop and pilot a toolkit, based on the iSchool's Data Science Storytelling course (IS 590DST), to bring storytelling in information science to community organizations. The project will create a data storytelling kit for community organizations, position public libraries to distribute this toolkit, and support community organizations using the toolkit.

"Public libraries and nonprofit community organizations need data storytelling to keep up with a changing media landscape," said McDowell, who has been teaching storytelling at the iSchool since 2007. "Corporations have already begun incorporating aspects of data storytelling into their social media presence, advertising campaigns, and public engagement strategies. Data storytelling—especially as an extension of traditional storytelling within libraries—can help nonprofit organizations use the limited resources they have to connect with communities as 'audiences.'"

McDowell offers storytelling workshops to nonprofits, businesses, and universities. Her workshops for nonprofits combine the tools of storytelling with many areas, including fundraising, career preparation, business, and public service. Her current research project is Storytelling at Work.

The project's team includes McDowell (principal investigator); Assistant Professor Matt Turk, who co-teaches the data storytelling course; Assistant Professor Rachel M. Magee; and Teaching Assistant Professor Martin Wolske. Rounding out the team will be a research assistant, funded by the grant.

"The project will leverage pre-existing relationships established by the former Center for Digital Inclusion [formerly directed by Wolske] through library practicums, and by the Youth Services Community Engagement course (IS 490YS), which has, since 2012, placed master's students in community organizations to build bridges between their work and library services," said McDowell.

The pilot partners for the project will be The Urbana Free Library, as the pilot library site for publicizing and sharing the data storytelling toolkit, and The Idea Store, as the initial community site for distributing and enacting the toolkit.

Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

Cheng defends dissertation

Doctoral candidate Jessica Cheng successfully defended her dissertation, "Agreeing to Disagree: Applying a Logic-based Approach to Reconciling and Merging Multiple Taxonomies," on May 25. 

Jessica Cheng

Student award recipients announced

Each year, the School of Information Sciences recognizes a group of outstanding students for their achievement in academics as well as a number of attributes that contribute to professional success. Congratulations to this year's honorees!

Alma with cap

Brooks presents keynote at West African conference

Ian Brooks, iSchool research scientist and director of the Center for Health Informatics (CHI), gave a keynote talk at the West Africa Conference on Digital Public Goods and Cybersecurity, which was held on May 9-10 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The conference focused on bridging the gender gap in digital public goods and cybersecurity spaces in Africa.

Ian Brooks

New project to help identify and predict insider threats

Insider threats are one of the top security concerns facing large organizations. Current and former employees, business partners, contractors—anyone with the right level of access to a company’s data—can pose a threat. The incidence of insider threats has increased in recent years, at a significant cost to companies. Associate Professor Jingrui He is addressing this problem in a new project that seeks to detect and predict insider threats. She has been awarded a three-year, $200,000 grant from the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute for her project, "Multi-Facet Rare Event Modeling of Adaptive Insider Threats."

Jingrui He

iSchool students present their research at Urbana City Council meeting

At the Urbana City Council meeting on May 9, students in the Community Data (IS 594) course presented their research on how communities are reducing gun violence. According to their instructor Chamee Yang, postdoctoral research associate with the iSchool, Community Data Clinic, and Just Infrastructures Initiative, the new course was designed as an experiential learning opportunity with a community engagement component, where students could gain research experience with real-world implications. Throughout the Spring 2022 semester, students worked in groups to explore community-driven approaches to prevent gun violence.

Chamee Yang, Sarah Unruh, and Gowri Balasubramaniam