UN Global Pulse Visualization Challenge

Giving Voice to the Vulnerable Through Data and Design

A new innovations initiative at the United Nations, UN Global Pulse is exploring ways to rapidly understand how people around the world are impacted by crises – as they unfold.

Last year, UN Global Pulse launched a large-scale mobile phone based survey to ask people from 5 countries in different regions of the world how they are dealing with the effects of the global economic crisis.  We’ve got the complete results of this unprecedented SMS survey. 

Visualizing and UN Global Pulse challenge you to visualize the voices of vulnerable populations in times of global crisis.  We’re looking for clear, informative, and creative visualizations that tackle one or more of the following: How do people in different nations describe their quality of life? What types of changes do people make in order to cope with economic uncertainty? How do individuals perceive their future outlook?

This first data visualization challenge from UN Global Pulse is a testing ground for a global experiment in giving voice to vulnerable populations and making real-time data actionable.

Background Information

UN Global Pulse is an innovations initiative of the United Nations, focused on identifying – in real-time – how vulnerable communities are impacted by global crises. By gathering and visualizing data there is potential for a real paradigm shift: not only will the UN be able to develop more agile and targeted policies for protecting the vulnerable but it could evolve a participatory network that ultimately helps people help themselves. For more information on UN Global Pulse, visit their Partner Profile.


UN Global Pulse Survey

Visit the UN Global Pulse Data Page for details about the mobile survey questions and to download the survey results. We’ve also provided some helpful suggestions for visualizing the data.

Additional Data

While not required, you may want to contextualize the survey results – which are all based on human perceptions – with objective economic and human development indicators in each of the surveyed countries. We’ve provided you with the following data sets spanning the recent global financial crisis through Spring 2010, when the surveys were conducted:


  • Representatives from UN Global Pulse and Visualizing.


  • The winning designer will receive an all-expense paid trip to the United Nations in New York for a high-level UN Global Pulse presentation to UN Member States in September 2011. The winner will also receive a $2000 prize, all courtesy of GE.
  • The winner will be announced online on Visualizing.org and featured in a Winner’s Q&A.;
  • An Honorary Mention winner will receive a $500 prize courtesy of GE.


  • Submission Deadline: July 25, 2011 11:59 PM EST
  • Winner Announced: August 9, 2011
  • Results

    The winning visualization: Visualizing the Voices of Vulnerable Populations in Times of Global Crisis by Elena Paunova.

    Read the recap to see the Honorable Mentions and see all of the entries.
  • Any Questions? Just get in touch

Challenge Updates

Receive challenge updates and announcements directly: sign up for our Challenge News mailing list.
Note: this is separate from our normal mailing list.

Sign Up for Challenge Updates