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Business Enterprise Research & Development in Canada

Cultural Expenditures in Canada

Social and Health Difficulties Among Aboriginal Persons in Alberta

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Clarity in Data, try Power in Presentation

Tame Complexity and Make Friends with Your Data

Map of Lobbying in Canada


DSCN0841_face0 copyJohn Burrett

25 years experience in analysis and evaluation, pharm government relations and consulting

  • Business intelligence, communications and data design
  • Program evaluation and performance measurement
  • 8th year of consulting, providing business intelligence, measurement and data for associations and agencies across Canada
  • Developed cutting edge business intelligence and data presentation tools, training with Stephen Few (Berkeley, California, on visual data analysis), Duarte Design (Mountain View California, on presentation design), Intersol inc. (facilitation technique) the Social Return on Investment Network International (social return on investment); and Stanford University via Coursera on social and economic network analysis.
  • State of the art capabilities with Tableau software for visual data analysis and presentation, social network analysis platforms and digital presentation media.
  • Experienced presenter – Conference Board of Canada, American Evaluation Association, Canadian Evaluation Society, University of Ottawa, Social Impact Analysts Association
  • Experienced in government relations for municipal sector, including coordination of a successful advocacy and communications campaign on federal funding for housing, working with the big city mayors of Canada

An interactive CV



Logic/theory of change modelling and complex system mapping for evaluation, performance measurement and planning

Taking time to think through how you understand your work to lead to results is one of the most valuable things you can do. With facilitated sessions, you can work through your theory of change and your logic model, that is, how your organization actuates change. You can work backwards and ask how what you have done has contributed to what you see, in the context of a complex world. Sound facilitation technique and state of the art system mapping tools help engage the room and capture the results.

Visual Data Design, Reporting and Presentation – Visual data isn’t just beautiful; it’s faster, cheaper and better.

Communicate with clarity and impact with publication-ready data graphics, dashboards, digital reports and interactive web presentation, using state of the art tools like D3.js javascript-based visuals. Learn how to make your reports and data presentations shorter, more informative and compelling. Effective data designs make the most of your data, for marketing, business intelligence, evaluation, strategy and data journalism.

Ontario Baby Names from 1917 to 2010

Powerful Presentation Design

Learning the language of the eyes and of the mind

We are bombarded, constantly flooded, with information. There is more information, data, now than ever before and its availability and presence in our lives is growing exponentially.

Many see this as a bad thing, an overwhelming din and a burden. But others think otherwise. David McCandless, a former journalist and now author on the subject of data and visualization, said in his TED Talk two years ago that, rather than agreeing with the axiom that “data is the new oil”, “data is the new soil, because for me, it feels like a fertile, creative medium.” I like that way of looking at it. So if we till the soil with more purpose, perhaps we can grow things that we have not yet envisioned.

If we grow amazing new things, we want to communicate them; share them. And to do that, in the midst of the din, we need clarity. So what does “clarity” mean in this context and how can we achieve it?

I believe that design is central and fundamental to answering this question.

We hear lots about “design”: just look in publications like Wired and Fast Company, or in your weekend newspaper. But what’s “design” got to do with this? What does it mean, for instance, for research, business intelligence, and communications?

I work a lot in evaluation and performance measurement: what does this mean for these fields? Well, I think spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a program evaluation and communicating poorly at the end is nothing but a waste of time if your audience fails to grasp the full meaning of the findings. Worse, it can result in uninformed decisions that can hurt the organization’s brand, its clients and its bottom line.

Learning to clearly and effectively communicate critical facts, findings and ideas offers the single greatest return on investment that many organizations, public and private, could earn. I’ll explain.

The computer was perhaps the most important new tool of the last millennium, but now we need to take back the ground and make computers work for us. Stephen Few, a leader in the visual business intelligence field, writes: “Despite great technical progress in data acquisition, the business intelligence industry has largely ignored the fact that intelligence in human beings resides in human beings, and that information only becomes available when it is understood, not just when it is made available.” http://www.perceptualedge.com

So now we need to work with how we, not the computers, are built. But how are we built and how does it matter?

A good way to illustrate this is an example used by David McCandless in the TED Talk mentioned earlier. In this example, he presents the data of a Danish physicist who converted the bandwidth of our senses into computer terms.


We are “visual animals”, where the vast majority of the information that we take in comes in through our eyes. We also see how little of the information coming at us at all times is consciously perceived.   This strongly suggests the need to communicate visually and effectively if you want your information to even register, let alone achieve clarity and persuasiveness.

To McCandless, this suggests that there is a “language of the eye and of the mind”. I think this is true, and so I think it is important to communicate messages in that language, using that huge visual bandwidth.

We now know much about how we have evolved relying on the sensitivity of our eyes to patterns, shapes and (to most), colours. We know that the effective use of data graphics makes use of the way our short term memory captures information to ensure that the point is transmitted clearly and instantly.


We have also evolved such that we tell each other things by use of stories. Here is another place where I believe the adoption of “design” into our thinking in the communication of facts, figures and ideas will be a powerful new tool.

Verbal-visual communications, like PowerPoint presentations, can capture and engage the audience if they are purposefully and well designed. That means incorporating structure, story, tension and release, just as in music (another kind of story telling) and using strong supporting visuals.

See the Duarte Design website for more on this. http://www.duarte.com

It’s all about ensuring that your message gets across clearly and with impact: visual and structural design gives you clarity.

Virtually none of us were taught these things as researchers and policy makers in training and even professional communicators may not have seen much of this thinking and technique.

But in today’s environment we must all become professionals in communication and we need to know this: we must learn the language of the eyes and mind and to harness the full power of our story.

Increasing Legal Rights, World Bank