More importantly, when was the last time to used a spreadsheet or database system that gave you a complement? I’ve written about this in other posts, but it bears repeating – data entry can be tedious but it’s SO SO important. When you’re planning a protest, anything from creating a sign-up sheet to sending logistics reminders to reaching out with a follow-up call to action – any and all of these tasks involve spreadsheets, queries, and maybe even a mail merge. Where would our social movements be without someone keeping track of all of this info? So to those of you who do this work day in and day out, THANK YOU! I see you! Your time and energy are meaningful, impactful, necessary. Your work is no less legitimate or radical than being in the streets or calling volunteers. You deserve the best tools available and plenty of credit and recognition. Doing data entry isn’t a distraction from movement building; it IS movement building!
Isn’t it grand?
Today I want to introduce you to a spreadsheet feature called data validation. No, it’s not the same as me standing behind you and saying “Good job!!” although if I had an action figure version of myself as a Spreadsheet Whisperer, that would probably be my thought bubble!
Instead, data validation is a mechanism that let you create a little drop down menu inside of a spreadsheet so that you or your collaborators can use consistent data. For example…
Data validation (good data… nice data… ok now back away slowly….) is a great option if you are building a collaborative spreadsheet with columns that you might sort or filter later. For example, you can use data validation for States so that you don’t end up with half of the people writing NY and the other half writing New York. You can also use it for cells that represent a status (such as “Not started, In progress, On hold, Done, Follow up needed”) so that you have consistency in tracking to-dos.
An alternative to data validation could be connecting your spreadsheet to a Google Form – which can often make data entry easier and more accurate. On the the other hand, some people prefer seeing all of the data in one sheet (with examples!). Also, if you are keeping track of data that change over time (“status” is a good example) then you will need to go into the spreadsheet side of the equation anyway. So a Google Form data entry experience will only get you so far. 🙂 Learn more about Data Validation in Google Forms here (and some less common examples of when you might want to use it!)
Don’t worry, Excel users, I haven’t forgotten about you! This video is awesome and goes really deep into how to create templates that utilize all sorts of data validation options!
15 minutes well spent! (yes, I watched the whole thing). Leila Gharani is a GREAT explainer. Leila, if you’re reading this, #validation!
Here are 3 reasons why I think data validation can be a useful tool for changemakers:
- You are collaborating with a lot of volunteers and you don’t have time to orient everyone for how to use your tools effectively.
- Easier data entry!
- You are forced to answer the question “what are our standards for good data?” BEFORE you collect any info … meaning you’ll get better results during and after!
- Consistency with data entry will save you time and make sure any formulas you might use are accurate.
But don’t just take my word for it! Try it out and leave me a note about how and why data validation has worked for you. Or if you get stuck, let me know how I can help!