Gathering Our Global Community: Volunteer Summit 2021

September 8, 2021

DataKind recently brought together over 100 of our volunteers virtually from 14 different countries, from Brazil to South Africa, for a Volunteer Summit. While we’ve had small convenings of volunteer leaders before, as well as large volunteer convenings to accomplish specific projects (known as DataDive® events), this year’s Summit was the first time we invited all DataKind volunteers - past and present - to come together for collaborative professional development and community building. 

The Summit was co-created by our volunteer community from the beginning. Planning was a joint effort between a DataKind staff member and a volunteer planning committee, and the sessions and schedule were determined by surveying the entire volunteer community. Volunteers created and led half the sessions, including a showcase of DataKind’s completed and ongoing projects and a panel discussion on ethical issues in the Data Science and AI for Good space. Volunteers are at the heart of what we do at DataKind, and having them lead the way in designing and facilitating the Summit was crucial to its success.

In addition to the volunteer-led sessions, we had a fantastic keynote by data scientist extraordinaire (and past DataKind volunteer!) Cathy O’Neil, and practical trainings led by experts on project management and working with open source data, both of which are key to many DataKind projects. Stay tuned for a future blog post on the takeaways from those sessions!

Panels and trainings aside, the core of the Summit was about connecting DataKind volunteers with each other and strengthening the global movement of data scientists using their skills in the service of humanity. We chose a virtual conference platform that facilitates easy one-on-one networking, and set aside time each day for volunteers to get to know each other. In fact, the main feedback from the post-Summit attendee survey was that people wanted more networking time! We even took a break for some fun data science trivia each day. For example, how many data scientists and engineers have volunteered with DataKind over the years? While our work is urgent, sometimes it’s just as important to share moments of fun so we can return to our mission unified and reinvigorated. 

“It was really great to be able to attend something like this, to (virtually) meet other volunteers and hear what other people have been doing. Also, loved the keynote.” - Summit Attendee

We look forward to hosting an even bigger Volunteer Summit next year so we can continue to build and strengthen our global community of DataKinders - and next time, we’ll be sure to have even more networking time. We hope to “see” many of you there! 

In the meantime, join us for our upcoming virtual DataDive event, Shining a Light on Community to Advance a Nation, September 17-18, 2021. We’re excited to work with partners from the urban digital divide, policy, and gender equity sectors. Be sure to check out our DataDive 101 session on September 9 from 6-7 PM ET too! 

Many thanks to the Summit volunteer planning committee: Jacqui Georgi, Smit Mehta, Akshit Modi, and Daniel Nissani. Thanks also to the volunteer presenters and panelists: Krishna Bhogaonker, Stef Garasto, Nick Hamlin, Nandi Nadkarni, Manojit Nandi, Sébastien Ouellet, Mary Reagan, Ani Sundaram, Melinda Gomez Tellez, and Allison Wu.

Volunteer Summit Sessions

  • Keynote from Cathy O’Neil (video | slides)
  • Best Practices in Project Management & Communication with Partner Organizations (video | slides)
  • Volunteer Showcase 1 (video | slides)
    • WeRobotics: Detecting buildings in aerial drone images
    • Partners in Health: Project scoping
    • National Press Foundation: Investigating the use of PPP funds
    • Medic: Engineering scalable data quality for the community health sector
  • Panel on Ethical Issues in the Data Science and AI for Good Movement (video | slides)
  • Open Source Data Best Practices (video | slides with links to resources
  • Volunteer Showcase 2 (video | slides)
    • Shared Harvest Foundation: myCovidMD data advisory
    • SOIL Haiti: Waste container route optimization

Join us in advancing the use of data science and AI to support causes that can help make the world a better place. 

As always, thanks for your support of this critical work!

Quick Links