Social Startups

How Can A Data Scientist Create Massive Social Impact? Try DataKind

Everyone seems to be talking about the importance of data. Every second day there is a new article on how data is driving businesses to be more innovative, efficient and profitable. Big companies like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are using data  to guide strategic business decisions. Companies are investing big in building data science teams and data scientists.

In the midst of this data surge, my goal with this article is to explore how data can affect social change and help humanity. How non-profits which are more often than not resource constrained can take advantage of their data and be more data driven.

This is where Jake Porway comes in, data scientist extraordinaire with the New York Times. Jake is also the founder of DataKind; moved by the excitement and surge of data applications in the business sector and the lack of data thinking to solve the world’s social and environmental problems, Jake started DataKind to bring these skills and expertise over to the social sector.

Their goal is to connect expert data scientists with social change organizations who are seeking to better manage, visualize and understand their data. They mobilize the data community to provide their skills and services pro bono to this sector. Many nonprofits and social ventures have tons of data about people they are helping and the problems they are working on but lack resources and skills to drill down and make sense of how they could use this data to better their services or cut costs. On the other hand we have a data science community that is energetic, growing and looking to work on world changing problems. DataKind aims to bring the two together through a data scientist exchange, bringing exciting new problems to the data community and helping to solve social, environmental, and community problems alongside nonprofits, local governments, and social organizations.

So far, DataKind has conducted a number of weekend long data dives all across the US, working on the data challenges of various social change organizations such as Grameen Foundation, UN Global Pulse, MixMarket. They recently conducted one in Washington DC, where they built a project for DC Kids Count, an advocacy group that  collects data about child well-being in Washington, DC. Volunteer data scientists used the data to create an interactive map to help the organization identify new patterns and opportunities for interventions. Their next data dive is going to be in Chicago, the weekend of May 11 and are currently planning events in London, Boston, and NYC for the remainder of this year. In addition to data dives, DataKind is also planning to offer fellowships, placing data experts with social change organizations for short and longer-term duration.

If you are a high impact social change organization and are committed to using data to drive impact, you can register your interest with DataKind here. They not only help you with data discovery but also provides advice on how to build good data sources. If you are a data scientist and excited about using your skills to solve world’s biggest social and environmental problems, you can register to volunteer here.