Data Journeys - Community

By: Dylan Williams & Vishad Sharma   |   Purpose   |   https://www.purpose.com/offices/apac/

About: This series explores the voices of individuals and organisations championing the use of data and evidence as tools for disruptive change. Their inspirational work serves as a guide for how the for-purpose sector can embrace these practises. The series was authored by Purpose, a social impact organisation with support from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

Data has the ability to dramatically improve the effectiveness of the social impact sector. It allows us to find hidden patterns, gives us the tools to understand where new strategies can be deployed, and lets us build the evidence to dismantle entrenched disadvantages. 

Exploring examples of innovative data approaches, we have identified three key pillars that are critical in guiding this work. They are the role of trust, capability, and community. This three-part content series brings to life these key pillars and provides stories of how organisations are embracing data and evidence. 

In this piece, we explore the role of community.

There is a growing field of data practitioners across the Australian for-purpose sector. Fostering a community amongst these individuals will be central to its further growth through the sharing of knowledge and experience.

On a global level, Ginger Zielinskie is a driving force behind data.org as its Chief Strategy Officer. data.org is an organisation dedicated to building the field of data science for social impact, fostering a global community to help strengthen the data capacity of individuals, organisations and the sector overall. Created with joint funding from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and The Rockefeller Foundation, data.org demonstrates the opportunity that philanthropic collaborations can have in building community and transforming ecosystems.  

Explaining her passion for data, Ginger shared how a colleague and Inclusive Growth and Recovery Challenge awardee Katherine Lucey shared how important it is for mission-driven organisations to “fall in love with the problem” they seek to solve in order to most effectively unlock the power of data and data science for social impact. If you instead fall in love with data and technology tools you build , you run the risk of creating models, infrastructure, tools, conclusions, and communications that do not actually solve the problem. The opportunity [lies in] identifying what data science can do to achieve meaningful impact beyond simply measurement and evaluation.”  

Ginger sees her role and that of data.org as facilitating partnerships and fostering a community across the sector to build the field for data science and social impact is at the heart of everything that data.org does. “We are a platform for partnerships and do everything with others. We fund, support and amplify high potential use cases, share resources to build the capacity of organisations and invest in digital public goods that can be used in a variety of communities and geographies.”

Ginger is acutely aware of how daunting data science can be. Especially to smaller organisations with low budgets and internal capacity. Which is why she is committed to helping the social impact community overcome these challenges. “We all must work to develop a means of demystifying [data]. As a sector, we need to ensure that we first become data literate on a path to becoming data fluent.  We also must work to make sure that access to data skills is accessible to all.” To this end, data.org has launched The Global Capacity Accelerator Network committed to training one-million purpose-driven data professionals by 2032.  

Beyond this active global partnerships and training role, data.org has developed an accessible resource library that can help organisations stay engaged with the subject and grow. 

“We want to be able to help organisations understand where they are in their data journey, where they can do better, and resources that they can utilise to increase their ability to use data to achieve impact.” To that end, data.org has also recently developed a Data Maturity Assessment that enables organisations to answer a set of questions, learn where they are on that journey, and provide the guidance needed to increase their capability. 

Culture change and mindset are also central themes that Ginger has seen be successful in navigating this organisational transformation. “Organisations do not need to be especially technically savvy - It is about a particular mindset; What tools can best be utilised to help solve the problem? How do we get the right people around us to help us achieve our goals and mission? The question is one of whether you are willing to try something new - to learn, test, iterate, and refine.”

Storytelling is a critical aspect of building community as it has the ability to connect with audiences and show what is possible. “We look at where there are opportunities to lift up [the stories of] NGOs that have been able to use data science to transform how they solve their [problems]. It’s about other organisations seeing themselves in the eyes of those NGOs.” 

One of our biggest takeaways from speaking with Ginger was that people working in the social impact space can help each other understand and use data to support their mission. This is something that Ginger and data.org have been fostering.

The more small steps that we all take towards using data in our work, and sharing with our community the successes and failures that we encounter - the greater the learning and impact we will all have.

 

More information about data.org’s data maturity assessment tool and resource library can be found at the following links: Data Maturity Assessment Tool and Resource Library

If you are interested in hearing from more voices that are guiding the data revolution in the for-purpose sector, or you are involved in a data programme that you believe people would benefit from hearing about, please sign up here.

Apr. 13, 2022

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