Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
During a time that information travels quickly through social media and traditional media outlets, there is still much hegemony of narratives and control of information by certain governments and corporations, who understand the critical role of media in shaping public opinion about social issues and policy approaches. This sometimes results in the perpetuation of false information and the suppression of data that runs counter to the goals they are seeking. Increasingly, such disinformation and lack of understanding can be countered by using publicly available data, especially given the massive flow of information and wide-spread availability of “big data.” However, that data often comes from multiple sources, is raw and unrefined, or lies buried within dense and extensive reports that are nearly impenetrable to a lay audience. The number of people who actually read the reports issued by CSOs and international organizations regarding social injustices faced by some communities had been limited to scholars, human rights professionals and activists. Many changemakers and CSOs working on these issues would benefit from being able to use this data and information to present the problem in a clear and understandable way to key audiences, and to improve the effectiveness of their social change strategies, especially for those issues that had been previously understood and filtered through a lens of biased or false information.
There is little effort being made to present social justice issues in simple, understandable and accessible ways to cater to a large audience and effectively gather support behind a cause. The result is a gap between the on the ground realities in the Levant region and the media’s presentation of those realities. And, there is a gap between what decision makers understand about a problem, and what the data shows to be the reality.
For example, what is happening on the ground in Palestine rarely gets out into international media due to the fact that most of the international media is controlled by political forces, giving viewers only a one-sided narrative. In regards to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in particular, much of the information that is promoted internationally is being screened and monitored by Israeli organizations, making it very difficult for outsiders to see a full, accurate picture of the social problems in Palestine.
Even though many human rights and other citizen sector organizations are conducting research and publishing reports about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, most of their efforts are targeting decision and policy makers. Rarely is there a focus on changing public opinion by presenting the full narrative. International audiences rarely have access to on the ground information from Palestine.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Ramzi recognizes that in order to address many social justice issues, there first needs to be a fundamental mindset shift among key actors that can then open the way for behavior change. To do this, individuals must be presented with information that makes them think differently about the problem or issue, and that essentially challenges a false narrative that has been developed. Ramzi’s work provides people who are working in the citizen sector, media, and Universities with new visual representations of data that is produced about social justice issues. Using principles of design, technology, and storytelling, Ramzi is transforming data and information that has been unintentionally hidden in reports or buried in drawers into visual stories that are accessible and easily understood, and are used to change thinking and behavior around a problem.
Further, Ramzi is promoting a new culture of informed citizens who make decisions based on facts rather than commonly spread narratives, which often contain misinformation and bias. To integrate this way of communicating social justice issues into programs and educational institutions, Ramzi teaches people how to express hard facts in a visual way that can be easily internalized by a wide audience. Founded in 2011, Ramzi’s organization, Visualizing Impact (VI), works to bring harsh social injustices that happen on the ground to the forefront of public attention. Ramzi is strategically focusing first on Visualizing Palestine in order to change the narrative about a country, people, and conflict that is so often misunderstood by and misinformed to the outside world. Ramzi’s work, however, is already being replicated beyond the Levant region.
Effective storytelling and visual tools are necessary for the success of civic engagement. Such initiatives can only have an impact if they are able to galvanize public support and thus place pressure on decision-makers. The availability of information is expanding faster than our ability to comprehend it, thus leading to an information overload and fatigue for many people. Visualization has proved to be an effective tool to make sense of this information glut given that 50 percent of the brain is dedicated to processing visual information. Today, visual stories are appealing in our modern age of technology, where attention spans are short. Ramzi’s goal is to alter common beliefs based on mainstream media, replacing them with narratives based on facts and universal principles of social justice. Ramzi’s long-term plan is to create a space for changemakers worldwide to use data visualization and storytelling in their quest to address global injustices.
Although Visualizing Impact is starting with Visualizing Palestine, there is high demand for Ramzi to replicate his work beyond the Levant region. Ramzi has plans to train others to replicate his work in new countries and across sectors.