The things at the core of what we do.
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Values our team agrees to
We are in service to New Zealand
Our mission is to put data into everyone’s hands. We think this will lead to big positive impacts to New Zealand, and to the ways we work together. We believe we’ll become invaluable by helping and being useful to others; by becoming a tool to help them pursue their goals and dreams. We keep these big dreams front-of-mind, and work to make them reality.
We serve everyone in New Zealand. Inclusiveness is not the norm in society or technology, and sometimes we make choices that are more work or cost more money to make things more inclusive and equitable. Building a diverse team is an important part of making decisions that create inclusivity, as our different experiences help us to understand and create better solutions. As part of this, we document and share our approaches to show what we’ve learned and how it can be done.
We are working towards delightful
To get where we are going, we need to get better every day, both individually and as an organisation. Nothing is ever perfect or finished, but constant small improvements will add up over time. No one else is doing what we are doing, so we need to be adaptable and courageous to make the map up as we go.
We welcome novelty. We embrace the best new ideas in our products and ways of working. We are always looking to learn, and we are infinitely curious about how others use what we do. We reflect on our own actions, and we are always open to true, constructive feedback. We do not have all the answers, but we are committed to working them out together.
We operate with integrity
We are transparent and open. We make it easy for everyone to know what we are up to and how we are going, both inside the organisation and externally. Our data is accurate. Our approach is impartial. We won’t tell you what to think, but we do stand behind what we say.
We want to do things, not just talk about them. We are responsive, up to date, and a pleasure to deal with. We share openly so that others can re-use our work, and we make the extra effort required to produce content that could be of use to others.
We are kind
We are humans working for other humans. We work to understand each other’s views, and operate with care and kindness. We assume the best of each other, but that does not mean we let things slide or take others for granted. Our processes are here to serve us, not to get in the way.
We are approachable. We recognise that we each have different expertise, but we all have useful perspectives to bring to bear. This means that sometimes we are students and sometimes we are teachers. We know when to let others just get on with it and when to offer the benefit of our point of view. When we are communicating, we consider the needs and style of the person we are communicating with. We want to create an environment where we can all be ourselves.
We are travelling together
We all have a part to play in the success of Figure.NZ. We’re travelling together, but we take personal responsibility for the role we play. We identify and work to resolve all problems, not just the ones we are personally responsible for. If we can’t fix something alone, we get get help and fix it as a team. We recognise that we don’t have to have a solution for every problem we spot - it’s OK to say ‘hey, this isn’t right’, and get help to find the way forward.
Figure.NZ is part of a wider ecosystem of organisations doing great things with data. We rely on some organisations, and others rely on us. We play nicely with others. And we are always curious, respectful and keen to learn about what others are doing.
Early in Figure.NZ’s journey, we realised that if wanted to build the best team of people to deliver our mission, we couldn’t just hire people who could sit in the same office from 9-5. This challenged everything we knew about running teams, but we made a commitment to build a culture that is remote-first, rather than just remote-friendly. We believe you should have the same experience regardless of where you work, and we treat remote working as the default, not the exception. We make extra effort to ensure that we design our processes to prioritise the remote working experience, rather than thinking of it as an add-on.
Remote-first brings lots of benefits to our team. Some we’ve noticed are:
- Everyone in the team is able to operate with deep contextual knowledge. With most communication occurring in front of everyone, the ambient awareness of what’s going on enables everyone to make better decisions for our overall goals, not just for their own domain.
- There is greater respect for different disciplines by seeing the thought and logic behind decisions that would otherwise be jarring.
- Observing conversations happening in other domains gives the opportunity for people to jump in with a solution that no one knew to ask for - i.e. a developer seeing the data team discussing an issue and being able to jump in with a quick-fix.
- Everyone can share their thoughts despite not being the fastest or loudest.
- Knowing what we say will be read by everyone makes us more conscious of what we’re saying and how we say it. We still share our thoughts, but we are more mindful. We take the time to question our assumptions and assertions and to be clearer in our thinking and expression.
Remote-first is hard, time-consuming, and requires ongoing attention and thought, but we’re committed to making it work. We rely on our team to keep us honest and focussed on improving the experience.
Principles for designing our products
We serve New Zealand—all of it
In line with our kaupapa, we exist to serve New Zealand. That means we care about what we make being useful and usable to all New Zealanders. We prioritise the needs of the marginalised and those who are not tech-savvy.
We don’t take the easy technical decisions that leave people behind when it comes to inclusiveness and accessibility. We think about accessibility and inclusiveness as vital, core parts of what we do, rather than as an edge case. We know we have some work to do to fix outstanding issues, and we clear these up wherever we can.
We think about the language we use and about the technical choices we make when we add new functionality to our tools, and we work to fix outstanding accessibility issues. We use accessible colour palettes and, where possible, usable alt tags.
We’re not precious about our own website. We work to get figures into the hands of New Zealanders where they are, because we recognise that it’s using figures that changes things.
We don’t reinvent the wheel
We’re here on a mission, and we need to do the most efficient things to serve that mission. This means we don’t rebuild things that already exist just for the sake of it. This includes open-source tools, but also existing services that are best-in-class at what they do. We don’t try and do search better than Google, or social content sharing better than Facebook. We use their strengths to augment our own.
We don’t do ‘new’ for the sake of new
We consider the cognitive load on people who use our services before arbitrarily making changes to use the new hotness or before introducing new features. Whilst we love new technology, we are sensible about what makes sense to integrate into our services and what does not, especially given many New Zealanders only have access to the Internet on older Android phones.
We use plain language
Wherever possible, we favour plain English in short sentences. We avoid technical jargon where it’s in our control to do so. We acknowledge that some of the subject matter we work with uses complicated language, and we do our best to mitigate that.
Principles for communicating with others
Figure.NZ exists to grow data use in New Zealand, so we can all better understand our country and care for our future. We do this by making it easy for everyone to find and use our country’s numbers for free, through our website.
We’re a non profit, we care about our country, and we believe data is for everyone, not just for experts.
The way we communicate is driven by our values. Read on for more about this.
We’re happy to help people find figures that deepen their understanding of a topic. Our approach is impartial, so we won’t tell people what to think. We’re not in a position to definitively say why something has happened in the data, or whether what’s happened is good or bad – but we can help people see the right questions to ask.
All figures we share are collected by other organisations. In the “About this data” section on every chart or map page on our website, we include details about which organisation has collected the data, as well as any information that organisation has shared about how and why the figures were collected.
Figure.NZ is knowledgeable, trustworthy and impartial, while also being friendly and welcoming.
We know data can be intimidating for people who aren’t comfortable with numbers, and we want to bridge that gap by encouraging curiosity and being helpful when people ask questions. Sometimes we don’t know the answers, and we’re honest about that.
We’re humble, and we take care to talk in ways that aren’t elitist. Figure.NZ believes data is for everyone, and we try to demonstrate this through our communications by meeting people where they are.
We love our country, and we want everyone to understand it, and each other, better.
The language we use is guided by our values, and we aim to communicate in a way that makes everyone feel welcome and included. This means avoiding language that’s violent, obscene, hateful, suggestive, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or ableist.
We expect the data we share to meet these standards too, and we won’t publish anything that doesn’t. We’re happy to hear from anyone who spots something we may have missed on this front.
We value kindness. We don’t say mean, judgemental, or defamatory things about people or organisations.
We steer clear of using jargon as much as possible, and we do our best to talk in plain language that’s easy for people to understand, no matter how much knowledge they already have.
How we talk about data
Note: these guidelines only apply to Figure.NZ’s brand accounts. On an individual level, we encourage our team members to talk about data as they see fit.
- Encourage people to ask questions about data.
- Answer questions as best we can, based on the information we have.
- Help people find answers elsewhere, if we can’t answer the questions ourselves.
- Use plain language as much as possible. This applies to how we talk about technology too.
- Explain terms people might not be familiar with.
- Use the same terms as were used in the collection of data – for example, if data was collected “by sex”, we describe it in the same way, rather than saying “by gender”.
- Note (but not give expert commentary on) trends and unusual aspects in the data.
- Highlight certain figures from a chart – for example, the figure for the most recent year.
- Highlight supporting and background information about data – for example, who it was collected by, why it was collected, how often it’s collected, what terms used in the data mean.
- Include links for people to find out more about the data – for example, if we’re sharing data about District Health Board areas, we may include links to information about those areas.
- Use jargon.
- Position ourselves as experts on the data we publish. Having not collected it ourselves, we’re not qualified to give expert commentary. We may offer possible explanations for what’s happened in the data, though. For this purpose, we define expert commentary as:
- Coming from a subject matter expert (which we’re not).
- Stating a definite position on a subject.
- To maintain our impartiality, we don’t:
- Say whether occurrences or trends in data are good or bad.
- Share or retweet other’s uses of Figure.NZ data.
- This has value in showing people how data can be used, but it’s risky in terms of bias. For example, if we see our data being used for what we consider to be a negative purpose, we’d probably avoid sharing it further.
- The value of sharing or retweeting Figure.NZ data use on our own channels is limited, as we’re talking to people who already see the value of data use, rather than widening our reach.
- Compromising our impartiality so we can demonstrate data use to people who are already supportive of Figure.NZ’s mission isn’t a risk worth taking.
- Share links to news stories that use Figure.NZ data to promote a particular viewpoint.
- For the same reasons as above, this isn’t worth the risk to our impartiality.
- In addition, media have far greater audience reach than we do through our channels, so there’s more to be lost than gained (in terms of our impartiality) by sharing their use of Figure.NZ data further.
- We see media as having an important role to play in making data use part of everyday life in New Zealand, so we want to support journalists to keep using robust figures in their work. While sharing their work further would do this, we can achieve the same thing by working directly with them.
How we engage with people who use Figure.NZ
When we’re engaging with people who use Figure.NZ (through any of our communications channels), we follow the tone and language guidelines set out above, as well as making sure whatever we say is in line with our values.
Much of the engagement we have with people who use Figure.NZ happens on social media. Below is the policy we apply to those interactions.
Social media policy for Figure.NZ brand accounts
Our social media channels are monitored regularly by Figure.NZ. Figure.NZ is not responsible for the personal, political, organisational or religious beliefs of its friends, fans or followers across all social networks.
We encourage you to think about and discuss what you see in the figures we share. Everyone has different experiences, and that means we can see or understand figures differently.
It’s important to us that everyone feels welcome on our social media channels, so there are some things we’re not okay with. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Violent, obscene, hateful, suggestive, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist posts, links or images.
- Use of profanity.
- Comments that threaten or defame any person or organisation.
- Solicitations, advertisements, or endorsements of any commercial organisations.
- Off-topic posts by a single user.
- Repetitive posts copied and pasted or duplicated by single or multiple users.
If you post something we think might make other people feel unwelcome, we’ll remove your post or comment. If you continue to post in this way, we’ll block you.
Notes on this policy
- Removing vs. hiding Facebook comments:
- If the comment is offensive (as per the guidelines above), we’ll remove it.
- If the comment is annoying but harmless, we’ll hide it. This means that the person who posted it and their friends can still see it, but no one else can.
- We aim to be open and assume the best of our social media followers, so blocking is a last resort. We’ll only do this if they repeatedly breach the policy above.
- We won’t get into discussions with anyone who wants to debate why their comments have been removed or hidden. The potential for positive results from discussions like this is minimal.
How we write about figures
These guidelines are for when we:
- Write about figures in our external communications.
- Provide figures to people outside of Figure.NZ.
- Use figures in presentations.
They recognise that although precision is often valuable, in some cases we believe it’s more important for people to easily understand and remember figures than it is for us to present the exact figure.
Like all of our guidelines, these aren’t set in stone – we’ll iterate them as we learn more and our views evolve.
These guidelines don’t impact how we present numbers in formats like data tables.
Precision and rounding
Using exact figures
We use the exact figure up to one decimal place in cases where:
- The context implies precision, like interactive charts on figure.nz.
- Rounding is likely to be applied by the person presenting the figures, like when we provide figures to media.
- Calculations are going to be made from the figures.
- We believe it’s relevant for the way the figures will be used.
Note: there are some cases in which using exact figures can create a false sense of precision. If you’re providing figures for one of the cases described above and you’re not sure whether you should give the exact figure, check with the Data Team.
Using rounded figures
In cases where the key purpose is easily understanding and remembering the figures, we follow the rounding guidelines below.
These cases include:
- Social media posts.
- Other entry-level content, like Facts.
- Presentations and slide decks.
We also use the words “about” or “around” to communicate that a figure has been rounded.
For all numbers except dollar values: if the source figure includes decimal places, first round to a whole number, then follow the guidelines below.
If you’re sharing more than one figure from the same data set, use the same level of rounding for all figures – specifically, the rounding that makes sense for the smallest value. For example, if you were sharing the population count from the 2013 Census, you’d write 1,416,000 for Auckland and 341,000 for Christchurch City.
Past or present tense
- If it’s the most recent data available, use the present tense.
- If it’s data we know has been superseded by more recent data, use the past tense and include the date.
- Always state the area the figure is for.
- When writing “million” or “billion”, write the word out in full wherever possible. If there are space constraints, abbreviate “million” to “m”, and “billion” to “b”.
- When writing percentages, always use the numeral and percentage sign. For example, write “6%” rather than “six percent” or “6 percent”.
- Contextualising numbers can also help with ease of understanding – for example, “1 in 6” is easier to understand than “17%”. When deciding whether to use a statement like this, consider whether it makes understanding the figure easier or not. An example where it wouldn’t make it easier is saying “4 in 9”, rather than “44%”.
Content warnings and inclusive communication
Figure.NZ holds a wide range of figures that we aim to share with a wide range of New Zealanders. The breadth of our data means that, inevitably, some of the figures we hold and share will be upsetting to some people.
Inclusive communication is communication that respects the emotional wellbeing of the people receiving it, and takes care to minimise the negative impacts on them. It does not ignore the potential harm that may be caused.
We use content warnings so we can warn people about these types of content before we share them through Twitter.
Note: As we’ve not yet found a suitably effective content warning method for Facebook or LinkedIn, we’ll instead be selective about which content we share on those channels.
What’s a content warning?
Content warnings tell our followers in advance what we’ll be sharing, so they can decide if they want to avoid it.
Content to warn for
The list of topics that require a content warning will continue to evolve, and we’re open to feedback. If there’s a topic you think should be added to the list, please contact us.
As of now, this is the list (including content examples):
- Suicide e.g. Deaths by suicide in New Zealand
- Self-harming behaviours (self-inflicted injuries, disordered eating) e.g. Rate of intentional self-harm hospitalisation among New Zealand youth
- Abuse or assault e.g. Aggravated sexual assault in New Zealand
- Mental health e.g. New Zealand adults diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders
- Loneliness e.g. People who felt lonely at least some of the time in the previous four weeks
- Having a low sense of purpose e.g. the lower end of Sense of purpose among people in New Zealand
- Abortion e.g. Proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion in New Zealand
How we use content warnings
- Before tweeting the content, tweet: “Content warning for [topic] for the next tweet/s. Will be hashtagged #[hashtag]”, including a word describing the topic e.g. “#selfharm”. This second part allows people to mute that hashtag so they can avoid seeing the tweets.
- Example content warning tweet: “Content warning for self-harm for the next tweets. Will be hashtagged #selfharm.”
- Once you’ve tweeted the content warning, tweet the content, threaded to the warning tweet. Make sure to include the previously specified hashtag in every tweet that contains the content you’re warning for.