The Global Drug Policy Index by Café

For decades, tracking how well - or badly - governments are doing in drug policy has been an elusive endeavor. In no small part, this is because data collection efforts by both governments and the UN have been driven by the outdated and harmful goal of achieving a "drug-free society". The success of drug policies has not been measured against health, development, human rights, or social justice outcomes, but instead has prioritized indicators such as the numbers of people arrested or imprisoned for drug offenses, the amounts of drugs seized, or the numbers of hectares of drug crops eradicated.

Marginalized communities that are disproportionately targeted by drug policies have remained largely invisible, while in many countries punitive drug control measures continue to operate unabated. As a net result, there's a severe dearth of accountability for the repressive approaches to drug control that most governments continue to employ.

In this context, it was our absolute pleasure to partner up with the Harm Reduction Consortium to design the first Global Drug Policy Index (GDPI). This novel tool offers the first-ever data-driven global analysis of drug policies as well as their implementation (examining beyond what's strictly on paper) in a systematic, comprehensive, and transparent manner.

The project needed an output that would match the originality of the research and that made the content accessible and easy to understand. The design challenge was to transform an immense amount of data into a tool that would offer a holistic view of a country’s relationship to drug policies in an intuitive way.

The GDPI deserves an award because it is nothing short of radical innovation.

Using 75 indicators, it covers five dimensions ranging from criminal justice and extreme responses, to health and harm reduction, access to medicines, and development.

As the project represents not only a data-driven argument but also an advocacy piece, we started with branding. The logo acts as both a speech bubble and a map pin, and the brand imagery represents an optimistic view of the future. The main dataviz, a Mandala that visually represents aspects of the index Index, was derived from the logo.

Being a global Index, the first visualization the users encounter is cartographic: a choropleth map where users can have a bird's eye view of the countries' scores by overall performance or by each of the five dimensions, visually disaggregating the data.

To suit different analytical mental models, the GDPI also features a ranking table that can be filtered, sorted, and searched, in many different ways.

Each table or map entry links directly to country profile pages, where users can drill down and have access to the full list of indicators organized by dimensions and policy clusters, which detail each indicator's source and current status. All country profiles, or assessment summaries, can be downloaded individually as PDFs.

The GDPI's power lies in using User Experience Design, Visual Design, Information Design, Creative Coding, and especially Data Visualization to elegantly communicate its vast amount of research, data, and key objectives.

  • Credits
    Team Café: Leandro Amorim - Creative Director Erlan Carvalho - Lead Data Designer André Hanauer - Designer Erico Rosa - Creative Developer Guilherme Lobo - Creative Developer Robson Klein - Creative Developer Team IDPC: Juan F. Ochoa - Campaigns and Communications Officer Marie Nougier - Head of Research and Communications Adria C. Fernandez - Research and Advocacy Officer Matthew Wall - Global Drug Policy Observatory, Swansea University Funded by the Robert Carr Fund via its Strategic Opportunity Funding.
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