We look back on the highlights and recurring themes from this year’s Data4Good festival
The Data4Good Festival 2021 was held last week from the 10-12 May. With more than 20 social sector support organisations hosting the event, the festival was an opportunity to showcase how data has improved charities and their impact.
The three-day programme was jam-packed full of sessions and hosted on the Hopin platform. From workshops on the basics of Excel to impact reporting, the festival was tailored to meet individuals at every stage of their data journey.
Attendees were also able to navigate the programme through 11 tags, spanning themes such as communicating data, data analysis, data and Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI), and data strategy.
We’ve all experienced a touch of Zoom fatigue and have become too accustomed to its existence in our lives. So, it was exciting to interact with Hopin. There was a general chat that attendees could post in, a networking section, a main ‘stage’, and break out rooms – all in one place.
The first day of the festival offered attendees varied presentations from inspiring case studies, to workshops, to conversations centred around data and equality.
The first session we attended was ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)– A data driven journey from emh’. The Emh Group is a large social housing and care organisation based in the East Midlands of England. Kathryn Eyre from Emh Group and Sian Basker from Data Orchard gave us an insight into the journey that Emh took to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion became a core tenet of their business.
They did this by assessing their existing data on EDI and planned how to improve it. Sian Basker provided important points for organisations to consider when collecting EDI data from their service users and employees.
To collect clear data on EDI, Sian stated that the following checks should be made:
David Ainsworth from CAST hosted a popular session on ‘How to use data to tell a good story’. David said that there are three questions to consider when presenting a story grounded in data: Is it new? Is it interesting? Is it relevant?
To ensure the story is successful, you should also review its reach, the quality of the story, and the presentation of data. Let’s face it, there are more visually compelling ways of presenting data to your audience than through spreadsheets!
In the afternoon, Janet Chapman from Tanzania Development Trust showcased how data is being used to better protect girls in Tanzania from female genital mutilation (FGM) and support community development.
Much of rural Tanzania has not been mapped, so Crowd2Map has been training locals to use smartphones and add services such as pharmacies and access to water on OpenStreetMap. Locals are also trained to use OpenDataKit to log incidences of FGM.
The session informed attendees about:
A round-up session at the end of the day provided insights and reflection on themes from two attendees and Giselle Cory, Executive Director at DataKind UK.
Martin Cowles from Christians Against Poverty noted that we seem to be addressing our imposter syndrome. We’re all slightly nervous, especially small charities, about data. This is because we’re often having to do a lot within our roles, so it can be hard to be immersed in data enough to have confidence when working with it.
This was confirmed by Giselle, as she noted that there was a wide spread of people with varying job roles attending the first say of the festival – highlighting how data is part of all the work we do.
The second day of the festival started with some networking on the Hopin platform. It seemed to resemble modern-day, virtual speed dating (in a good way!), as attendees were randomly paired up to each other over video call to speak for three minutes. If the three minutes felt too short, there was the option to extend the conversation.
There was a friendly community atmosphere as attendees posted their morning greetings into the wider chat function.
The first session we attended was ‘How to do impact reporting for small organisations’ with Antonia Orr and Leah Selinger from Coalition for Efficiency. The session was created for teams in small charities who aren’t sure where to start with impact reporting.
Impact reporting can be difficult because there are stakeholders who want to view data differently. The session helped attendees to understand how to get enough data and present it in a way that caters to all audiences. The session also:
The roundup of the second day was hosted by Lindsey Macdonald from Street League and two attendees. Lindsey noted that there seems to be a wider conversation and shift around our understanding of data compared to several years ago. This re-affirms the idea that we are all on a data journey.
The opening session was led by Rachel Coldicutt from Careful Industries. The thought-provoking session captured what others from the previous days had also acknowledged – that data is not neutral.
Data reflects the interest of the people who get to organise it. One of Rachel’s slides with the quote, “If knowledge is power, who shapes the data shapes that power”, embodies that idea.
The session demonstrated examples where data has served the purpose of upholding structural inequality within our society, particularly racism.
In an afternoon session, ‘Data for communities’ by Sam Milsom from Open Data Manchester, a similar point was made. Sam showed attendees graphs from Tylervigen.com, which reports correlations between two seemingly unrelated events. For example, the correlation between cheese consumption and people dying from becoming tangled in their bedsheets. The graph demonstrates a strong correlation; however, we understand this is just a coincidence.
While comical, the graphs point to something more profound. The way we report on data reflects our own biases and beliefs. There could be a way to interpret the above correlation, but it reveals the fact that we choose to correlate events or data that support something within our interest or agenda.
The festival elicited conversations that encouraged attendees to view data not as numbers in a spreadsheet, but something that impacts us all in our varied roles and takes shape in other forms.
Data is socio-technical material that gives us insight into power structures. But when used to help internal efficiencies and provide services better, its impact can’t be missed.