Friday, 15.30-17.00 (Balcony C)

How the Simpsons make data use happen. Amanda Makulec, Excella Consulting; Barb Knittel, John Snow Inc.; Michelle Li, Palladium

What do the Simpsons have to do with health information systems? Join this interactive design sprint for a hands-on experience learning how characters and stories could be one key in cracking the data use nut. You’ll leave with new tools for understanding users in tech and no-tech contexts and learn our do’s and don’ts of using human centered design in complex system-strengthening projects.

Session Level:

Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Session Resources:

Session Details:

Finding ways to improve how data is used for decisionmaking is complex, particularly in large scale health information systems. Often, top-down approaches impose the ideas of a few senior decisionmakers throughout different levels of the system, and users at lower levels of the system get frustrated rather than feeling empowered with data.

What would happen if instead of generating ideas at the top, we looked for data use ideas among the end users?

Join this interactive sprint workshop to work through a rapid case example where you’ll learn how to create personas and journey maps that can be used to inform data visualization, dashboards, and change management approaches to getting stakeholders to use data for decision making. Rather than lecturing on how effective each of these approaches can be, you’ll learn by doing and walk away with new approaches to understanding the needs of data users.

Throughout the session and in a wrap up discussion, the facilitators will share real world experiences on how these techniques were used to develop data use strategies in South Africa, Tanzania, and Liberia as part of the USAID-funded MEASURE Evaluation project and the Global Fund Innovations for Data Use initiative. You’ll learn what worked (and what didn’t) and hear tips on how to use these techniques in short format workshops and as part of long term agile design approaches to developing data products that work.

Resources from the session:

The Simpsons, Design, and Data Use (slide deck)

Applying User Centered Design to Data Use Challenges: What we Learned (MEASURE Evaluation)

Resources for learning more about design thinking:

IDEO Design Kit

Stanford Bootcamp Bootleg + Resources

Session Leads:

Amanda Makulec, Data Visualization Specialty Lead, Excella Consulting. Amanda is the Data Visualization Lead at Excella Consulting, where she manages teams in the development and design of user-centered dashboards and materials as part the Data and Analytics Practice. Prior to joining Excella, Amanda was a Visual Analytics Advisor at John Snow Inc. where she spent six years designing data visualization products for public health projects and building data viz capacity. Amanda is one of the founders and current community manager of the Data Visualization for Development community (, and is passionate about connecting colleagues using data visualization for social good in the international development community. Learn more about Amanda here or at Excella Consulting.

Barbara Knittel, Barb Knittel, MPH is a Senior Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer and Data Analytics and Visualization Team Lead in JSI’s Center for Health Information, Monitoring and Evaluation. Barb’s technical experience spans the spectrum of data from data collection, tool development, and analysis to dashboard design, data visualization and data use. She is interested in the drivers and barriers to data use and information uptake among users across the health system. Learn more about Barb here and at John Snow Inc.

Michelle Li, Monitoring, Evaluation and Data Use Specialist, Palladium. Learn more about Michelle here or at Palladium.