Case Study

Making the pivot: How Datagestive went from data visualisation designer to investigative data journalist

Making the pivot: How Datagestive went from data visualisation designer to investigative data journalist

“My experience was immensely positive. I’ve made valuable and new connections and long- lasting friendships. I’ve been able to take 1-to-1 tutorial lessons with a former RE grantee. I’ve been able to get the equipment I needed to run intensive data-wrangling operations. And I finally found a profession in which I feel totally at home.” – Petra Matijevic

Datagestive is a research and data visualisation consultancy, run by Petra Matijevic, which explores the opportunities of digital technology for social inclusion and social participation. Petra’s practice stems from her worrying observation that the potential for greater democracy afforded to citizens by the wealth of open data is being primarily captured by businesses with specialist skills of obtaining information and economic value from the data, leaving underrepresented communities out in the cold.

Datagestive believes that open data should stay open and that communities everywhere should make value from it. Their aim is to improve data literacy and data accessibility to help citizens make sense of data, to inspire and facilitate civic investigations and to help shift social narratives toward greater social justice and inclusion. To this end, Petra applied for the Resident Entrepreneurs programme to develop new visual analysis methods, interactive data analysis tools, open data registers and useful how-to guides to create the ‘data citizen’s toolkit’ — a collection of resources for citizen researchers, journalists, communities of interest and nonprofit organisations.

During research activities for the project, Petra collaborated and built relationships with a range of journalists which, unexpectedly, led to offer of work as an investigative data journalist. This was not just a source of income but a pivot in the direction of Petra’s career – from a data analyst and data visualisation designer primarily serving corporate clients, to a journalist in a non-profit cooperative primarily serving the public interest.

Now working with investigative cooperative The Ferret, the products in development during Petra’s RE residency will now be further developed under The Ferret brand and will have benefit of being exposed to a bigger audience, with her MVP reigniting the newsroom’s original ideas of publishing transparency tools on political data to the public and increasing data and well as civic literacy in this way.

Image: Petra’s editorial page on The Ferret’s website. Source: The Ferret

As a ‘residual’ product of collecting and wrangling UK political data, Petra was commissioned to undertake two investigations into gifts and foreign travel by British MPs, subsequently published in the Sunday National, which have both supported the tool and illustrated its potential uses. Despite this pivot from her original intention, over the course of the programme, Petra produced 2 separate MVPs and an additional tool:

  1. Scottish political influence web tool, which was launched to The Ferret’s subscribers in March 2023.
  2. Data summary tool. A script and online tool for producing a cover sheet for datasets, designed for use by those without data analysis skills who want to gain an initial overview of the dataset, currently used in The Ferret’s newsroom.
  3. A resource database with links to open data and tools currently used by Petra and colleagues, but which is planned to become a resource offered by The Ferret.

Now the first of Petra’s MVPs has launched to The Ferret’s subscribers, she is focusing on how to monetise whilst maintaining open data applications and transparency, and without the need to lock the public out of open data that rightfully belongs to them. Rather than locking the content, Petra is exploring how revenue can be created by offering additional functionalities used by a certain group of users but not by the average public member.


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