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Data is a Team Sport: Mentors Mediators and Mad Skills

- August 7, 2017 in Community, Data Blog, Event report

Data is a Team Sport is a series of online conversations held with data literacy practitioners in mid-2017 that explores the ever evolving data literacy eco-system.

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This episode features:

  • Emma Prest oversees the running of DataKind UK, leading the community of volunteers and building understanding about what data science can do in the charitable sector. Emma sits on the Editorial Advisory Committee at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. She was previously a programme coordinator at Tactical Tech, providing hands-on help for activists using data in campaigns. 
  • Tin Geber has been working on the intersection of technology, art and activism for most of the last decade. In his previous role as Design and Tech Lead for The Engine Room, he developed role-playing games for human rights activists; collaborated on augmented reality transmedia projects; and helped NGOs around the world to develop creative ways to combine technology and human rights.

Notes from the conversation

In this episode we discussed ways to move organisations beyond data literacy and to the point of data maturity, where organisations are able to manage data-driven projects on their own. Training in itself can be helpful with hard skills, such as how to do analysis, but in terms of learning how to run a data projects, Emma asserts that you have to run a project with them as it takes a lot of hand-holding. There needs to be commitment within the entire organisation to implement a data project, as it will take support and inputs from all parts.  The goal of DataKind UK’s long-term engagements is to help an organisation to build an understanding of what is good data practice.  

Tin points out how critical it is for organisations to be able to learn from others that are working in similar contexts and environments. While there are international networks and resources that are accessible, his biggest challenge is identifying local networks that his clients can connect with and receive peer support.

Another critical element for reaching data maturity, is the existence of champions striving to develop good data practice within an organisation. Tin and Emma both acknowledge that these types of individuals are rare, have a unique skill set, and are often not in senior management positions. There’s a need for greater support for these individuals in the form of: mentoring, networks of practice and training courses that focus on how other organisations have successfully run data projects.

Intermediaries are often focused on demystifying new technologies for civil society organisations. Currently a lot of emphasis on grappling with the implications of machine learning, but it tends to point out the negative impacts (i.e. Cathy O’Neil’s book on ‘Weapons of Math Destruction’), and there needs to be greater examination of positive impacts and stories of CSO’s using it well and contributing to social good.

DataKind UK’s resources:

Tin’s resources:

Resources that are inspiring Emma’s Work:

Resources that are inspiring Tin’s work:

  • – A a suite of easy-to-use web tools for beginners that introduce concepts of working with data
  • Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online – Report from Data and Society on how false or misleading information is having real and negative effects on the public consumption of news.
  • Raw Graphs – The missing link between spreadsheets and data visualization

View the full online conversation:


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