Art-of-the-Possible Webinar: The Power of Data Science for Social Impact

Data science should be used for sustainable social impact – that was the main point made by all the panelists at a webinar hosted by the Central Florida Foundation (CFF) earlier this year. 

CFF is a valued partner of Florida Community Innovation (FCI), as both organizations support a mission of empowering young people to use technology to improve their community. Our student interns attended CFF’s February 22, 2023 webinar to learn more about how nonprofits can use data science to advance their mission. The webinar was titled, “Art of the Possible: The Power of Data Science for Social Impact.”

The main speaker was Caitlin Augustin, the Vice President of Product and Programs at DataKind, an organization that connects nonprofits to data science resources. “Research questions should be formulated from questions that keep you up at night,” Augustin said. “Nonprofits should capitalize on individual interest for increased motivation and depth.” 

After defining the research question, Augustin suggested that “data scientists could optimize their data usage through a defined cycle of: observe, react, act, repeat.”

This revolves around identifying trustworthy data to support a theory that can determine and drive the following phases to make some change. The repeat step is essential because it allows us to “reflect on the existing information and discover limitations, which can help reduce bias and better generalize the result from sample to population.”

Sandi Vidal, the moderator and the Central Florida Foundation’s Vice President of Community Strategies and Initiatives said that nonprofit organizations need to make sure that the solution is applicable to the situation for sustainability. Scaling is significant to longevity and control, especially with the limited resources available to these communities.

Rachel Allen, director of the Peace and Justice Institute, said  data can be used to positively affect public perception and policy. She stressed how data visualizations are “creating the relationships to bring about social change.”

Augustin confirmed that “being data driven is not the solution, it can be part of it.”

FCI looks forward to implementing advice from the CFF webinar and continuing to use data science for sustainable social impact in the community. 

Zan Valere, one of the authors of this post, interned with FCI during the Spring 2023 and Summer 2023 semesters.

Qingyu Yang , one of the authors of this post, interned with FCI during the Spring 2023 and Summer 2023 semesters.

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