Data Skills for Leaders

Data Skills for Leaders

Building practical skills for data-informed decision making

A person looking at a laptop in a training session.
Photo by E. Feruzi / K15 Photos.


Imagine you’re a manager reviewing a summary of a recent survey conducted by one of your teams.

  • What if the data suggests that you take a politically inconvenient action?
  • How do you balance what the data says with other priorities, like your values?
  • What questions should you ask of the survey team to ensure the data is inclusive?
  • How do you detect bias in the way data and charts are presented to you?

A new training program to help leaders translate data into informed and ethical decisions

Two participants at a table. One person is talking about a card that says "Transparency."To effectively serve their communities, tomorrow’s public and civic leaders must be equipped to make sense of a dizzying and growing onslaught of data and statistics. This will require more than just collecting, cleaning, or visualizing data. Instead, decision makers must be confident:

  • Communicating data-informed decisions effectively and empathetically.
  • Balancing insights with other priorities, political economies, and pressures.
  • Drawing meaningful conclusions from data by interpreting it accurately.

We facilitate in-person workshops and virtual activities (with tools like WhatsApp) in order to leave a legacy of learning and reflection that outlasts any single activity.

The curriculum is tested and proven

As a result of a recent Data Skills for Leaders training with influencers from across Sub-Saharan Africa, 50% of participants reported an increase in each of the three skills.

A summer 2019 training with young leaders from across Sub-Saharan Africa offers evidence about the impact of our approach after only a two-day training: 

  • 36% of participants scored higher on a quiz about key data interpretation concepts.
  • 50% of participants reported an increase in their skills for data-informed decision making.
  • 73% of participants "strongly agree" that they would recommend the training to others.

Where did this data come from? 

Three evaluation tools help us understand the impact of the Data Skills for Leaders training: 

  • Participants take a quiz of key concepts, before and after the training.
  • Participants take a retrospective pretest survey after the training. 
  • Participants complete a feedback form about their training experience.

Results from a retrospective pretest survey

A chart that shows participants' self-reported level of skills before and after training. The chart shows that all participants felt that their skills had improved as a result of the training.

We used a retrospective pretest survey (RPT) to invite respondents to rate themselves (on a likert scale of “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly agree”) on a series of questions. 

An RPT is delivered once, after a training. For each question, respondents rated how they currently stand, and how they stood before the training. 

This chart shows how participants self-reported improved skills through an RPT. 

Each bar represents the average participant’s change for a specific indicator over a two-day training: 

A sample bar. A vertical line represents the score before training. A dot represents the score after training.


The bar’s color represents which skill the indicator measures: 

  • Green: Drawing meaningful conclusions from data 
  • Orange: Communicating data-informed decisions 
  • Teal: Balancing data with other priorities 

Longer bars represent indicators where participants reported the greatest improvement as a result of the training. 

Contact information

To request more information, contact Samhir Vasdev at samhir@irex.org.