Introducing DataKind’s 2021 Scoping Squad

By Benjamin Kinsella, Technical Project Manager, DataKind &
Rachel Wells, Senior Manager, Center of Excellence, DataKind

DataKind is on a mission to harness the power of data science and AI in the service of humanity. We do this by bringing together our international community of pro bono technologists with mission-driven organizations. We help to bridge the gap between those who have data science and AI resources and those who desperately need them.

Given our unique position as a technical partner to the social sector, we’re constantly meeting with social impact organizations that are eager to benefit from what data science and AI can offer. Over the years, as DataKind has evolved and the demand for data science and AI expertise has increased, we’ve often wondered, how can we combine our volunteer community’s appetite for new initiatives with our ambition to provide pro bono services to as many organizations as possible? 

That’s when we started to think about our scoping process. Scoping is one of the most essential components of designing and executing Data Science and AI for Good projects, and it’s time intensive. Our teams spend multiple hours in conversation with high-impact organizations to understand their pain points, co-design an ideal end state, and identify the resources needed and available to create data-driven solutions. At the same time, many of our volunteers are problem solving experts, so we recently set out to bring together a team of volunteers who could use their consulting and problem solving expertise to take on scoping.  

After months of learning and collaboration, we’re thrilled to introduce the Scoping Squad! Building on our lessons learned from our past network of Data Creatives, the Scoping Squad is a team of expert volunteers that will be recruited annually to lead on DataKind’s Discovery & Design processes. This team is ready to jump in at a moment’s notice to help scope high quality, impactful, and ethical Data Science & AI for Good projects, so that DataKind can support more social impact partners. We’re excited to highlight the Scoping Squad as a part of National Volunteer Week and Global Volunteer Month. 

Read on to learn more about the team and when you might get to work with them.

Who is on the Scoping Squad?

The Scoping Squad includes experienced volunteers from all five Chapters who have participated in DataCorps® projects, DataDive® events, and other DataKind engagements. With representation from over five countries, scopers are senior leaders, practitioners, and researchers from global technology companies, startups, nonprofits, and universities. More information on the scopers is below.

What will the Scoping Squad do?

The Scoping Squad is ready to work with prospective partners to determine the potential use of data science and AI and help DataKind continue to deliver on our mission at a greater scale. As mentioned above, many scopers are embedded in Chapters, so they’ll be able to replicate this training within their local communities. In the spirit of ongoing improvement, we hope to continue to share related learnings and insights across the DataKind network. 

When would you meet the Scoping Squad?

If you represent a mission-driven organization that would like to partner with DataKind on a project, you’ll likely meet a couple of our scopers as you’re discussing ideas. If you’re a volunteer, a scoper may onboard you to a project, since they were directly involved in the scoping process.

How was the Scoping Squad developed?

The team completed an eight-week training facilitated by DataKind’s Center of Excellence. These sessions began by reviewing our method for scoping projects, codified in the DataKind Playbook, and included collaborative discussions on best practices and learnings from not only DataKind but other work-related experiences. Through role play and hands-on exercises, the team learned DataKind’s process for scoping a Data Science & AI for Good project. The training ended with a Discovery Day event where the scopers were paired with mission-driven organizations to begin discovering potential projects.

Meet some of the team below!

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