Background

In recent years, increased conversations and initiatives centered on data for social impact and social good have emerged locally, nationally, and globally. In 2020, the Data Science for Social Impact (DSSI) team at the Social Policy Institute formed, and conducted an extensive review of training programs and literature related to this evolving field. We identified trends in existing data science programs as well as gaps and learning opportunities in the field.  We learned that the majority of existing programs are centered on building skills for aspiring data scientists or linking data scientists with organizations to work on projects.

While these are important efforts, there is also a great opportunity for the social sector to build non-technical data-related skills and capacity across organizational roles. Specifically, we identified interest in training and programming that:

  • Focuses specifically on social sector leaders and staff, most of whom are not data scientists.
  • Meets people where they are in their understanding and use of data to support further their interest and efforts to build new skills and knowledge.
  • Identifies the diverse non-technical skills necessary for leveraging data for social impact.
  • Centers equitable and ethical data practices across topics
  • Is accessible and freely available.

In consultation with data.org, the St. Louis Regional Data Alliance, and local and national stakeholders, we have worked to gain community input into the creation of training opportunities and the development of resources that center the needs of the St. Louis social sector community. You can find out more about how we are developing these resources, by learning about our approach to community engagement.