(This video was recorded as part of our "Flip" chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat with Paull Young, director of digital at charity: water.)
There's no shortage of data in the nonprofit/philanthropic sector. Indeed, a growing number of nonprofits are filling virtual filing cabinets with data on their constituents, donors, outputs, and outcomes, while more and more foundations are creating digital records of their program activities and grantees' performance. But what are nonprofits and foundations doing with that data once it has been collected? In most cases, not a whole lot.
At the same time, computer programmers have elevated so-called "hackathons" and "codefests" into an art form. In rare cases, these events even enable hackers to contribute to the greater good by developing software or a mobile app that can be used to address a social problem. Too often, however, as Jake Porway, founder of DataKind, noted at a recent 501 Tech NYC event, they're just "a bunch of white dudes looking to solve their own problems, like where to find parking or farmers markets." Which is why his organization focuses on connecting programmers and data scientists interested in doing some social good with nonprofit leaders working to address some of the world's most urgent problems.
Formerly known as Data Without Borders, DataKind accomplishes its mission through weekend-long "DataDive" events; a DataCorps (i.e., a group of volunteers and/or contract employees who focus on a single project for up to six months at a time); and by providing on-demand/in-house data services.
After the event, I had a chance to chat with Porway about the nonprofit sector's relationship to and use of data and what nonprofits could be doing to make better use of their data. Porway also offered advice for nonprofit leaders who are worried about the steepness of the data learning curve.
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(Running time: 5 minutes, 51 seconds)
Is all data created equal? And if not, what types of data should nonprofits look to collect, manage, and analyze -- and to what end should they use it? Share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.
-- Regina Mahone