Smart Non-Profits Use Data for Social Good

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bigdata_nonprofitNot much has been reported about how data science is helping charitable organizations with their goals of social good, but that’s about to change if Rayid Ghani has anything to say about it. Ghani who led the Obama for America data science team, but more recently research director at the University of Chicago’s Computation Institute and startup Edgeflip, is working hard to see big data techniques put to work solving difficult societal issues.

Where they’ve been applied so far — on everything from helping poor mothers in Chicago to monitoring voting rights in Kenya — these new methods for working with, analyzing and processing data have proven rather effective. But early successes are fleeting and nonprofits need to figure out a way to make more data-driven decisions if they want to step up their games and stand out.

Over the past summer, Ghani led a University of Chicago initiative called the Data Science for Social Good fellowship, in which teams of students from across the country worked with nonprofit and government agencies to help them solve some pressing problems using data. Some of the projects were highlighted during a presentation the students gave at the SIGKDD Conference on Knowledge Mining and Data Discovery in Chicago in August.

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