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Data Dive Weekend with Annie E. Casey Foundation and DataKindDC


At the DataKind DC data dive weekend over 100 people came together to explore, cleanse, analyze and visualize data to help youth organizations turn data into information and information into insights and actions. On Friday evening the four work areas were introduced. Each was represented by people from the youth organizations involved and also by volunteer data ambassadors who previewed the data and helped define the scope. Each pitch was energetic and passionate. One of the data ambassadors set the tone for the weekend when he said that he had never really thought about the foster care system before, but now that he's spent time with the data, the cause of improving foster care will never leave him. It was difficult to decide which team to join, but we had time to sleep on it. Teams would be forming on Saturday morning.

I chose to join the Youth and Young Adult Outcomes team, partly due to the massive amount of data they had available, and partly because they're from Philly, home of my alma mater Drexel University.

Our Challenge: The Philadelphia Youth Network (pyninc.org) matches youths in high school and afterwards with meaningful work experiences. Students exposed to meaningful work early in life are more successful in future jobs. It exposes them to real world experiences that help them with decisions about their own future. The organization asked us to work with their data to find insights into job success factors. They were especially interested in using advanced data analytics techniques to merge datasets. This would then enable exploration of relationships and success factors between the organizations providing jobs and the student employees. After working with the CIO of PYN to document the data relationships between key elements, it was exciting to see people working rapidly to merge and clean the data.

It was a great place for learning some new techniques and trying out your ideas. While some on my team were plowing through data manipulation, I was experimenting with the Keshif.me data visualization tool. I was able to quickly create a dashboard showing the relationships of gender, job status, grade level and family size over time. It was a good proof of concept using the tool.

They said we could come and go as we please and stay as long or as little as we wished. I didn't realize that I'd end up staying over 10 hours. The energy of the diverse, encouraging, collaborative group was inspiring. I sat with students from a Baltimore coding school, an research analyst from a bank, a data scientist from a large media organization, an amabassador from PYN and an analytics lead for a professional sports team. It was an amazing group to spend the day with. It was also fun to see Adil the creator of keshif.me in the room. He helped me with a few pointers on the work I was doing and even wrote some JavaScript to make it better. I'll say it once again, the DC Data and Tech community is an amazing, inclusive, creative and energetic community of positive professionals and students interested in making the world a better place. It's also great to see the network helping people grow their technical, leadership and professional skills.

On Sunday we worked on documenting what we've accomplished, finalizing our work and presenting our accomplishments. It was so interesting to hear what the other teams had done. Two of the other teams were focused on foster care data from Pittsburgh and their results yielded insights into how movements of youth within the system impacted success rates. The final team focused on connecting the public data systems from child welfare, mental/behavioral health, and homelessness. They merged and cleaned the datasets and created impressive visualizations to aid in understanding the youth in the system.

Next steps:

DataKindDC will continue what was started this weekend with smaller teams that will take the work forward to a useful end point, just as they had done for the Red Cross project in a previous post. The work started this weekend is a disruptive event. It takes the analytics abilities of these organizations to the next level and strenghtens their ability to convince funders that data analytics work is valuable. I'm excited to see what the outcomes will be for youth and fully support the team that will be continuing the work.

Information about DataKind DC http://www.datakind.org/chapters/datakind-dc/

Information about this Data Dive event http://bit.ly/2eYRjCu

Information about the previous Data Dive for the Red Cross: http://bit.ly/2cCzQOa

Information about Code in the Schools http://www.codeintheschools.org/

Information about Philadelphia Youth Network https://www.pyninc.org/

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