Be Data Lit: Creating Communities that Matter

This article was original posted on https://dataliteracy.com/be-data-lit/ on 4.3.2021.

Be Data Lit has been a story in the making for quite some time. It would be easy to tell you how I was a technical educator and saw skills gaps all the time in the classroom. Or how Jane Crofts is the person responsible for all of us talking about data literacy today (she is btw). There are so many stories surrounding the WHY of Be Data Lit. But the only story that matters is the one I want to tell you today. It’s the story of how I want us to care about elevating each other.

The majority of discussions you see today on data literacy are what I call “organizational data literacy.” I tell you this not to diminish its importance but to call attention to it. By acknowledging ODL, we can admit there are other forms of data literacy as well. Specifically, what I am calling “Individual data literacy.” To be clear, there is room for both, and both are needed. But if there were a hierarchy of data literacy priorities, Individual data literacy would be at the top of the list. 

The majority of discussions you see today on data literacy are what I call “organizational data literacy.” I tell you this not to diminish its importance but to call attention to it. By acknowledging ODL, we can admit there are other forms of data literacy as well. Specifically, what I am calling “Individual data literacy.” To be clear, there is room for both, and both are needed. But if there were a hierarchy of data literacy priorities, Individual data literacy would be at the top of the list. 

IDL is a priority due to no fault of its own or any individual’s fault. The factors influencing its emergence are the following: 

  1. The increased price of college tuition. 
  2. The velocity of change with technology.
  3. A pandemic that nearly decimated the service and arts industry.

The first two points have been in play for a while. What happens when we increase education costs but don’t increase a person’s means to afford it? Education becomes a privilege and an issue of equal access. Suddenly, the workforce needed to support technology becomes smaller and smaller over time. 

With a workforce less focused on technology, what happens when a pandemic erupts? 2020. We were all witness to the service industry and arts industry sacrificed on the altar of COVID-19. For weeks in a row, millions of people lost their jobs, and we all asked ourselves if we were next. It is evident to us, nearly a year later, that we live in a very different world.

The reason I started Be Data Lit is because of 2020. Because I saw friend after friend losing their job, and I felt powerless to help them. Every week I would talk to one of my best friends, and she was worried she’d eventually have to apply for a job. Where? She would ask. Where would she get a job? Her career was working in restaurants. Opening restaurants. She was running front of the house. Her job was gone. It had vanished seemingly overnight. She hasn’t worked since March of 2020. 

Our path forward is reskilling. It’s looking at the data skills needed today and teaching millions of people what a new future can look like with them included. The thing is, I can’t do this on my own. I need a community. I need a community of people dedicated to helping others and seeing beyond Organizational data literacy. We have to look at Individual data literacy and help people find a path forward. And the only way we will be successful is if we do this together. 

It’s time to acknowledge Data isn’t confined to an organization. It’s everywhere. Data literacy is not a catchy phrase; it’s a way of life. I needed to create a safe harbor for data literacy advocates—people passionate about data literacy for everyone—all walks of life. People who understand that data literacy is not one size fits all and don’t have to be a data scientist to be literate or employed.

My goals for Be Data Lit are not revenue driven. Be Data Lit is community driven. Our community takes a unique perspective. Our advocacy expands beyond P&L and into a person’s well-being. I acknowledge that I can’t be everywhere at once, which is why I lean on my growing community of advocates to encourage and inspire me to emphasize the need for data literacy. Our community can accomplish a lot together, and I invite leaders from all career verticals and walks of life to help. 

Consider this your formal invitation to be a part of the Be Data Lit community. Our goal is to create a community of advocates who help others Be Data Lit. Over time, I hope that we can formalize more education and create more pathways through organizations like Data Literacy. Ben and Becky are doing great work, and we are happy to partner with them on this needed message. Have a story or article you’d like to write? A resource you can share. Consider our community, your community. 


Written by Sarah Nell-Rodriguez, a globally recognized industry expert in software education and Data Literacy, and founder of the recently launched Be Data Lit online community site. Sarah would like to acknowledge Allen Hillery for his expert assistance with this article. The header image above with the tagline “Data Literacy is for Everyone” features at the top of Sarah’s new site.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s