Welcoming Elizabeth Grossman as DataKind’s Board Chair

At DataKind, 2021 represents a new chapter – one of growth and an infusion of new leadership to our movement. As our stellar COO, Russatta Buford, stepped into the Interim Executive Director position, we also welcomed Elizabeth Grossman, our amazing Board Chair. 

Elizabeth has been a passionate and committed DataKind supporter for many years. She first joined DataKind as a funder when she was at Microsoft. While at Microsoft, Elizabeth worked on partnerships that connected programs, policy, data, and technology to strengthen cities and communities. Areas of focus included criminal justice reform, transportation, open data, and access to opportunity. Previously, she worked on technology, research, and science policy at the U.S. House of Representatives and the National Academy of Sciences. 

Elizabeth is an expert in strategy, design, and execution of cross-sector collaborations with civic impact. She’ll no doubt continue to bring that same brilliance to DataKind, and we’re excited to have her with us in this role. Join us in welcoming Elizabeth and supporting her leadership in this next chapter for DataKind. Check out the below for more! 

What do you see as DataKind’s greatest assets?

One is the passion and thoughtfulness of the volunteers and staff. When I attend DataDive® events, Chapter meetings, or project showcases, I’m impressed by people’s commitment to harness their skills in algorithms or usability testing or data architecture in combination with their inner sense of service and justice. The result is a rigorous, responsible application of data science and an uncompromising focus on helping to make the world a better place. 

Another asset is the institutional experience and memory at DataKind. The range of projects with partners all over the globe and a cross-cutting perspective equip DataKind to see patterns in data science applications and nonprofit needs and how volunteers can come together most effectively. Thus, DataKind continuously improves its partnerships, products, and processes. 

What do you think is important for prospective DataKind partners to know?

DataKind’s activities are like icebergs – the (intellectual) heft is mostly below the surface. The report or model at the end of a project, the shiny visual, or even an intense DataDive weekend doesn’t happen without a lot of thoughtful, nuanced work before and after. DataKind staff and volunteers, as well as the champions from partner organizations, provide a great deal of expertise and time in order to assess opportunities, figure out how data science insights or efficiencies fit into and accelerate partner priorities and impacts, determine the broader landscape of data science within the sector, assess data and data infrastructures, scope potential technical approaches, refine and revise during execution, and transfer and disseminate the results. All the experience, processes, and diverse capabilities of the DataKind community are absolutely necessary to realize the ultimate impacts – on housing, transportation safety, health, and many other areas. 

What’s your proudest moment as a member of our community?

Even before I joined the Board, I was a DataKind supporter for a number of years when I was at Microsoft. A partnership from that time that I’m particularly proud of is the AI Accelerator – Advancing the Capacity of the Civic Ecosystem to Apply AI in Cities. It brought DataKind volunteer teams together on projects from across the U.S. in areas such as sustainability, education, and housing, and surfaced lessons on common barriers and effective paths to impact. A particular highlight of the experience was the first-ever virtual DataDive event. This was in October 2019, before we knew that virtual was going to be the new normal – we just wanted to be able to include local volunteers as well as those who cared about the issues from anywhere. As a result, more than 100 DataKind volunteers from around the world, hailing from five continents and eight time zones, donated their time and talent to eight amazing organizations working on important issues facing metropolitan areas. And when COVID-19 struck a few months later, DataKind had experience, perspective, and a baseline to build on their terrific work to keep their volunteer community active and engaged virtually over the past year. In fact, DataKind just held its first virtual DataDive event of 2021, Trust, Transparency, Togetherness: Powering Public Data for Communities, connecting with hundreds of volunteers and working with eight mission-driven organizations on five social impact projects.

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