Painting pictures with data July 17, 2019

Painting pictures with data

July 17, 2019

Title: Data Content Strategist

City: Gilbert, Ariz.

As cities get better at collecting and publishing data on government services, they quickly find they need someone who can tell stories with that data. As the data storyteller in Gilbert, a fast-growing city of 250,000, Melissa Cannon spends most of her time poring through complex data sets and figuring out how to turn them into something the public can easily understand.

For example, when the Fire Department opened a new station in southern Gilbert last year, Cannon helped them show why it was needed. First, she pulled Census data showing that the population in that part of town was growing, as well as data showing how many new buildings are there and the growing number of service calls. Then, with the help of the GIS department, she constructed a heat map that painted a picture of growing demand right where the city decided to build its newest fire station.

“The ultimate goal is to show the inner workings of government decision making,” she said. “It’s something our residents want to see, and we’re showing it through data.”

Pro Tip: “Make content and data that’s accessible to residents — they appreciate the transparency.”