It’s officially 2023. But before I head into this new year I wanted to reflect in 2022, a year of travel and change for me.
While I have officially, legally, been self-employed since 2020, much of that time was spent in a full-time contract with UNDP. So this has been the first year that I have fully supported myself with short-term projects and new clients. This is an initially daunting step, but it was made easier by the fact that I still have a contract with the Chief Digital Office (CDO) at UNDP, it’s just a lighter, more flexible one. We made this decision so that I could move from the strategic work the CDO needed as a core part of their team, to the hands-on visualisation work that I love to do. So I knew that I had some work and didn’t start out from nothing. As would be expected, the first quarter of this new venture was quiet. I spent much of my time phasing out some of my previous advisory work in the team and on a UNDP project called the Digital Development Compass. This includes a survey, the Digital Readiness Assessment, which is visualised with an internal Power BI report for the participating country offices. I started this report in 2021 and it continues to grow as the product develops.
I was also able to go on my first holiday since the start of the pandemic. Low workload meant I could spend a few hours every morning getting some tasks out of the way and enjoy Tenerife for the rest of the day.
By the second quarter I had started a contract with another team at UNDP, the Nature Climate and Energy team. We had worked on some publications together when I was at UNDP full-time . The first project we completed in 2022 tied into the last project we had done in 2021, which was an analysis of the state of climate ambition. This new publication went deeper, for a regional examination. I created a data story and two visualisations in Flourish to give a high-level overview of the report findings. Much of the work I did on this project was completed from various locations in Thailand, where I spent a month between April and May.
In June I was invited to Malta, for a data visualisation training for the International Centre for Migration Policy Development. I delivered this together with Cecilia Cannon, as we had done at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva in 2021, although this was a 3-hour version of that two-day workshop. While PoliSync Centre for International Policy Engagement did not yet officially exist at that point, we were very much in the preparation stages to make it a reality and it felt like this was our first job in some ways. The training was held in a small group with a diverse set of actors from countries in Europe and Africa and provided lots of interesting conversations about migration and the role of research and data, within and outside of the workshop hours.
Less travel in the summer months, as there was so much going on in London. I somehow managed to get through this hot summer in my stifling flat, without air conditioning, and I spent a lot of that time enjoying being around my own craft materials and buying lots of new ones to pursue my creative hobbies. I also relaunched this site on a new platform and with an upgraded design.
There is a yet unpublished Power BI project with a small charity in the UK that kicked off while I was in Thailand and took up much of my time in the second half of the year. The first publication for this is still some time away, but the soft launch is planned for the coming weeks. This project has been the most time-intensive I have done this year out of all of my clients and I am looking forward to sharing it with you.
For the Nature Climate and Energy team the work concentrated on an analysis around the issue of gender equality in climate policy. This was a larger project for which I built several visualisations in Flourish and created the page layout on the Data Futures Platform with WordPress and Elementor. The numbers explore how many countries consider gender in their Nationally Determined Contributions, and highlights notable case studies. I will continue to be involved with this project as the data updates in the coming year.
In September I travelled to Geneva for the official launch of PoliSync Centre for International Policy Engagement and officially started my role as Strategist for Data Visualisation and Data Projects. I am looking forward to lots of exciting projects in the Policy Research space and further educating actors in the international development space about the importance of data and the power of data visualisation.
The final quarter was the busiest and consisted of lots of overlapping and last-minute deadlines.
I worked with a new team at UNDP on a short project helping to set up the right data structures for them to visualise their project management data in Power BI. I also continued to work on some projects for the Data Futures Platform, which have not yet been published as they are making their way through the many sign-off steps required. And there were some late-night emergency fixes on a briefing for the administrator that I got pulled into somehow.
I also worked on a rather last-minute visualisation project for the Nature Climate and Energy team in Flourish. As we are now experienced working together we were able to get this out in two weeks. Similar to the Gender report earlier in the year, this analysis focused on leaving no-one behind as we move towards a greener future.
During three days of those same two weeks I gave the first online workshop for PoliSync on data visualisation in international policy (find dates for 2023 here). As we are still a small team and just starting our workshops this involved a lot of product reviews and technical setup to make the experience as smooth as possible for our participants. I travelled back to Geneva at the start of December to deliver the same workshop at The Graduate Institute once more. The student reviews from last year had been very positive, so I was invited back to teach it again. As the students had asked for more time with Tableau we shifted the curriculum to focus it away from policy communication theory to hands-on building in Tableau, so I was able to deliver it on my own.
I was glad to have lots of family support with the daily tasks in these busy months, staying for four weeks in the US and then travelling on to Germany after my week in Geneva. This time away from London always means more time in nature as well, which I find so important to balance any work stress.
As I am writing this I am still in Germany, excited for what 2023 will have to offer. My biggest project is wrapping up, a few new potentials are in conversation, and PoliSync will start to take up more of my time as we grow and become more widely know. I continue to cherish the flexibility that this job has given me to see people and places while I pursue the work I enjoy.