Reflections on a DataDive

“I made a graph!” someone announces from the front of the room. The crowd cheers. Welcome to a DataDive.

There are around 90 volunteers in the room. Most are from the ONS or the University of Southampton’s Astrophysics department,  both of whom partnered with DataKind to put on the DataDive.

The volunteers have self-selected into two teams. On the left hand side, with red stickers next to their name labels, are the Shelter team. On the right, with team leaders in bright blue T-shirts, are the Parkinson’s UK team. Both teams will spend the next two days working with open and proprietary data to answer questions posed by the charities.

But what is a DataDive?

Day 1 of the DataDive. Photo by Adam Hill (Tweet)

Good data science can be powerful.  It can also be expensive, and organisations doing good often don’t have the resources for it. This asymmetry only exacerbates differences in their abilities, efficiency and impact. A DataDive is a chance to tip the scales, by bringing  together charities and roomfuls of experts for two days of data science, investigation and visualisation.

What comes out of it?

The end of an intense first day. Photo by DataKind (Tweet)

DataDives are designed to leave the charities with answers, ideas, and bigger questions. Did this Dive achieve that? Through conversations with the charity reps and attendees, four outcomes clearly came through:

  1. Straight answers: The charities took home answers to previously unanswered questions about the services they provide and the need for it. These are immediate insights that the charity can put to use, whether in campaigns or fundraising, or as seeds of evidence for organisational decisions and arguments to be made to Govt/other funders
  2. Expand the possible: If you don’t know something can be done, you’re 99% less likely to attempt it. The Dive exposed the charities and attendees to new tools, techniques and approaches, in terms of data analysis and visualisation
  3. Think differently: As well as new tools, the charities came away with new ways of thinking about their data, the way they collect, use and present it
  4. Community: For the charities, they get to know experts with a range of skillsets and experiences; for the attendees, they gain insights into sectors, roles and organisations they might not otherwise come into contact with. Maybe even make some new friends too!

This post reflects on a DataDive run by DataKind UKONS and the University of Southampton, with charity partners Shelter and Parkinson’s UK, on the 20-21st September 2018. This Dive was unusual in that it was aimed at University of Southampton and ONS employees – most Dives are open to anyone. If you like the sound of a DataDive, get in touch with DataKind or come to a meetup.

DataKind operate an open source policy. The outputs of the DataDive will be available on their GitHub repo soon.

Header image by DataKind

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