Creating Data-Driven Success Stories

Workshop Session 1

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Data-rich reports often lack the vibrancy needed to communicate impact. It is possible to share your data in a way that is compelling and memorable. Learn how to turn your data into an effervescent story for your next report, presentation, or grant application.


Nicolette van der Lee is a Program Coordinator at the Office of Continuing Education & Training for workforce, sustainability and contract training programs at University of Hawaii Maui College. Through the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui, she coordinates non-credit based community outreach and development activities in sustainability across disciplines including clean energy, sustainable agriculture, natural resource management, waste reduction, smart sustainable communities, and green workforce and education. She is also a StoryTelling Ambassador for the StoryTelling Network at SkillsCommons, supporting community colleges to share solutions addressing the challenges of offering industry-aligned education and job-driven workforce development. Her current doctoral research at Johns Hopkins University focuses on the sustainability of innovations, and developing strategies to build social networks, successfully engage stakeholders, and achieve sustainable outcomes in higher education.
Alexandra serves as a Storytelling IMPACTcommunity Ambassador for California State University-MERLOT's where she guides, coaches, and supports individuals across the country in sharing their success stories. Previously she worked within a TAACCCT consortium funded by the US Department of Labor where she supported communication and storytelling efforts across seven community colleges in the northeast region of the US. This experience fueled her interest in educating others about the importance of storytelling and providing resources to support the process of producing meaningful modes of communication to scale impact. Alexandra currently works in higher education in New York City and holds her M.A. in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University.

Extended Abstract

Stories have been told throughout the ages for very specific purposes. There are main character(s) who have a problem and, with resilience, face and eventually overcome the challenges - not unlike the path taken by many major initiatives in higher education today. Stories can help problem solve, provide guidance, build confidence, or share the wisdom of those who have walked these steps previously.  Stories can be used to help others overcome challenges and invite them to embark upon the next steps in their own journeys.

The need to communicate best practices for overcoming challenges and learning from mistakes is essential in illustrating meaningful impact and transformation on an organization, institution, or culture. Fueled by this national need to share programmatic successes and learning opportunities (failures), a growing national community formed through the California State University-MERLOT’s SkillsCommons StoryTelling IMPACTcommunity. This innovative community supports collaboration and inclusion for sharing impact stories.

Geared towards directors of programs, educators, and leaders, this hands-on workshop will introduce the concept of storytelling as an easy-to-digest way to communicate impact and scale efforts. Participants will learn to use the interactive online tools and stories we’ve created within our peer-to-peer learning community to support their efforts. Through hands-on activities that fuel creative thinking, participants will brainstorm and begin the storyboard process of a success story. Storytelling Ambassadors will work with small groups to develop conceptual story ideas. The small groups will share with the larger audience for peer-to-peer collaboration. Participants will gain access to storytelling tools and resources such as an interactive storytelling rubric and a storyboarding worksheet. These resources are open education resources available for later use. Upon returning to their institutions or organizations, participants will be able to integrate and apply the storytelling rubric, which outlines and explains the six components of well-told stories, to other success stories and reports. Additionally, the storyboarding worksheet will be a guide for story development and will take their concept from data to narrative.

Participants will be encouraged to stay connected with the California State University-MERLOT’s SkillsCommons StoryTelling IMPACTcommunity after this session, where they can continue to build their story work with continual support in our virtual community.

Meaningful and measurable learning outcomes for this workshop:

  1. Participants will be able to identify the components of well-told stories

  2. Participants will begin to develop at least one story

  3. Participants will give feedback on at least one peer-told story