Much is made of big data and data-driven communication. But so very little is spoken of human data.

This is the data we get in real time, sometime face-to-face, from humans. You know, those living, breathing things whose actions we record in big data and pump into data analysis tools.

So what is the difference?

In engagement, we think about 3 sources of data:

  1. Historical data – the “known data” of what’s happened before. What did the community and stakeholders do or tell us? What did they ask for? What feedback did they provide?
  2. Live data – the “get to know data” which tracks what’s happening now. What terms are people using? What are they searching for? Where are they clicking through too? What are they commenting on?
  3. Human data – the “unknown data” which considers what will people like, want, contribute or do. In engagement, especially where we’re proposing a new policy, a multi-million dollar project or piece of infrastructure, or a new program, we want people to tell us how they might respond.

Big data, despite its power and insight, can’t tell us what people will think. It can give us clues, but it can’t create new innovations, or tell us how the public might respond, and it certainly can’t create buy-in.

But it does play a part.

On your next project consider how you will use existing data and emerging data to help you connect with the community to gather human data.