Giving Compass' Take:

COVID-19 sheds light on the importance of utilizing data science to gather and assess reliable data to measure impact and inform future policies. 

• How can philanthropists play a role in helping improve data science systems that measure impact? 

• Read about the problems with data sharing during COVID-19. 

The rapid spread of a pandemic like COVID-19 stresses the importance of the availability of real-time and reliable data and calls for us to rewire our systems of how we predict and assess impact. One step toward achieving this paradigm shift is to bring together the capabilities of people who research and measure the impacts of policies and programs on people and the planet.

You might have noticed that our world is increasingly dependent on big data and data science in every aspect of our personal lives and in our economic, political, and social systems. Troves of real-time information on many issues, such as the cost of food, availability of jobs, our health status, jumps in the incidence of illnesses, our mobility patterns, etc. are produced every time a purchase is made, an Uber is called, a meal is ordered, a doctor is visited, a tweet is posted.

The exponential growth in this type of transactional, human-generated data is paralleled by an increase in information and analytical capacity unimaginable even a few years ago—making it possible to predict, assess and research changes on people and planet as it is happening. Using data science, it is possible for social science researchers and evaluators to collect a vastly increased range and volume of data more easily, quickly, and economically.

What does social research and evaluation look like post-COVID-19?

In a new, post-COVID-19 world, we imagine that traditional in-person data collection will be hindered, and real-time analysis of data and on-demand reporting will become a requirement for all types of research and evaluation efforts. As such,  leveraging and combining administrative, transactional and big datasets, like satellite images, household survey data, program administrative data, social media analytics, phone call-center data, the information generated through mobile phones, and internet searches (to name just a few), are going to become key sources of data for research and evaluation specialists.

Read the full article about rewiring how we measure impact by Peter York, Michael Bamberger, and Veronica Olazabal at The Rockefeller Foundation.