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I’ve just spent two days at Do Good Data 2014, an emerging Chicago-based conference focusing on the intersection of analytics and social good. As the brainchild of Andrew Means and his organization, Data Analysts for Social Good, this two-day conference was a fantastic blend of social scientists, programmers, nonprofit executives, foundation heads, and researchers. I can’t remember the last time a conference has left me so invigorated and challenged.
A lot of the credit for that goes to Andrew himself. Andrew is a former researcher for both Groupon and the YMCA of Chicago. Currently, he is the Associate Director of the Center for Data Science & Public Policy at the University of Chicago. His background in both the social sector and in data analytics runs deep. He’s also personable and passionate. In short, he’s a Plenty kind of guy.
Andrew curated a diverse range of speakers and topics, including yours truly, on “The Future of the Sector.” Obviously, the emergence of big data and the advent of powerful software and statistical tools to harness it were recurring themes. For example, you could find sessions about using machine learning to prescribe treatment interventions – not your usual nonprofit fare, and not necessarily for the faint of heart. However, there were just as many conference sessions about the impact we are all trying to make together, and the need to increase transparency and collaboration to achieve it.
Regardless of the session topic, there were a few key themes that stuck with me:
If you want to join the conversation, Data Analysts for Social Good has launched a year-round membership program. And if your knowledge of data stops at reading your ATM statement, don’t be intimidated – we all started at the beginning. The only prerequisites are a passion for change and a healthy curiosity. It was great to see both on display in abundance this week at the conference.