Datadive Debrief: New York and San Francisco Datadives

December 25, 2011

This fall we held our first two Data Without Borders events, one in New York in October and another in San Francisco in November. These weekend-long Datadives were chances for 3 NGOs each to team up with volunteer data scientists for just over 24 hours to explore their data, build analyses, and to ask and answer important questions for their mission.

We had a lot of questions going into these events and a lot of experimentation we knew we'd have to do. We knew the events would be great collaborations for data scientists and social orgs, but would anyone come? We were confident we had found good data problems, but were we actually ready to start serving organizations with just local scientists who had never worked together before? We knew we weren't going to solve an organization's big problems in just one day, but would we be able to even show meaningful results? We went into the weekends expecting success, but prepared for the harsh reality that we might have a lot of work ahead of us.

What happened was beyond what we could have ever hoped for. Not only did none of our fears come true but, quite to the contrary, we had greater successes than we had even imagined. Organizations and data scientists alike asked how they could keep working together, emails flowed in asking us to help move the projects forward, and one team's work was shown at the UN General Assembly! We're still improving our Datadive model (data cleaning is still a drudgery oft grumbled about by our participants), but we were thrilled that these first two events were huge successes by all measures. Not only did they show that these two communities are, with some prepping, already able to work together and produce meaningful results, but also that our vision of a world where a global network of data scientists works alongside social organizations is not just a dream, but quickly becoming a reality.

New York Datadive

We were honored to have The UN Global Pulse, The Microfinance Information Exchange Market, and the New York Civil Liberties Union attend as our selected NGO's for our New York Datadive. The work that teams produced ranged from a barrage of website scrapers, to time-lapse visualizations, to statistical analyses.

Click here to see the detailed results from New York.

San Francisco Datadive

We had an amazing group of social organizations at our San Francisco event, including The Grameen Foundation, Benetech, and Mobilizing Health. This event saw deep-dives of data on worker performance, statistics around human rights databases, and the beginnings of an automated prescription system.

Click here to see the detailed results from San Francisco.