By Rachel Wells, Senior Manager, Center of Excellence, DataKind
Have you ever wanted a behind-the-scenes look at how we work at DataKind? Interested in learning best practices and lessons learned from almost a decade of doing Data Science and AI for Good? Do you have a passion for providing pro bono data science support to a local nonprofit, but just don’t know where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
DataKind is thrilled to announce that we’re sharing our Playbook! DataKind’s Playbook is our globally-accessible, living knowledge base that enables the reader to design, implement, and follow-up on a Data Science and AI for Good project following DataKind’s approach. The Playbook exists because the brilliant people across our global network doing great work identified the value that could come from a centralized guide that captures all the knowledge gained from that experience and shares it with each other.
Volunteers played a critical role in the co-creation process for developing the Playbook. The Playbook provides direction on how to do a Data Science and AI for Good project -- and to do it well; it also codifies the lessons we’ve learned from our failures and successes for use on future projects. We share it to enable everyone across the DataKind Universe to do the same! DataKind believes that it’s important that we not only do the work ourselves, but also that we teach others to do the work, and do it well.
Based on DataKind’s a decade of experience, the Playbook is centered around these three guiding principles:
The primary audience for the Playbook is DataKind volunteers to enable them in their work. It’s also intended for our partner organizations and those who are considering working with DataKind to provide deeper insight into what to expect when working with DataKind. Additionally, the Playbook is useful for data professionals supporting social sector actors more broadly and other ecosystem actors. This is because we want to enable others in the Data Science and AI for Good space to follow best practices as we all learn and grow together.
Next week, we will share a blog that dives deep into our co-creation process for the Playbook over the last 18 months. For now, the biggest themes and takeaways that came across in our design sprints were:
With these takeaways and more in mind, we developed the Playbook to meet everyone’s needs. The Playbook development process involved refining how we define our project process and each step. We landed on the following six stages in June 2020, and we’ve been testing this project process framework ever since:
DataKind's project process:
So, we organized the Playbook into the six stages and refined exactly what each stage encompasses. Additionally, we enabled the Playbook user to filter for the individual roles someone might be playing on a project, creating “user-specified structure based on volunteer role.”
We also developed an internal tool that provides the volunteer with the minimum quality standards, called stagegates, for each step of the project process within each of the six stages. These minimum quality standards are outlined in a checklist for each project, which volunteers can use as a tool to manage their projects and find access to the linked Playbook resources for each step. This addressed the finding that we needed to “integrate documentation with workflow where possible.” Each Playbook article addresses one specific stagegate, so that the articles don’t get too long and remain user-friendly. This also helps “balance global standards and necessary flexibility,” in that the stagegates are the global standards, but the best practices each team decides to implement to complete the stagegates are flexible to reflect the needs and differences of their cultural context. Finally, what’s chosen as a stagegate clearly reflects the prioritization of vision, values, and culture alignment.
The best way to get to know the Playbook is to dive right in yourself! Create an account at playbook.datakind.org and explore.
A huge thanks to all the amazing volunteers, staff, and partners who’ve been involved in the process of co-creating the Playbook. We couldn’t have done it without you!
As the leader of the Center of Excellence, Rachel codifies processes, ensures all projects are executed with the highest quality standards, and creates structures to facilitate experimentation and sharing of learnings at DataKind.
As always, thank you for your support of this critical work!