Not every nonprofit has a data science team. To truly harness big data for social good, we need collaborations between individuals, across organizations, and across sectors.
These days, it’s hard to get away from the hype around “big data.” We read articles about how Silicon Valley is using data to drive everything from website traffic to autonomous cars. We hear speakers at social sector conferences talk about how nonprofits can maximize their impact by leveraging new sources of digital information like social media data, open data, and satellite imagery.
Braving this world can be challenging, we know. Creating a data-driven organization can require big changes in culture and process. Some nonprofits, like Crisis Text Line and Watsi, started off boldly by building their own data science teams. But for the many other organizations wondering how to best use data to advance their mission, we’ve found that one ingredient works better than all the software and tech that you can throw at a problem: collaboration.
As a nonprofit dedicated to applying data science for social good, DataKind has run more than 200 projects in collaboration with other nonprofits worldwide by connecting them to teams of volunteer data scientists. What do the most successful ones have in common? Strong collaborations on three levels: with data science experts, within the organization itself, and across the nonprofit sector as a whole.
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