Deep Dive 2: Data for Social Change

February 14th, 2017

Data for Social Change
Bridging the Gap Between Big Data and Local Data

Around the world media NGOs support telling stories to foster free speech and understanding aimed at social good. Seen not only as stories but also as data, they constitute critical inputs on local citizen needs, circumstances, attitudes, and behaviors. Likewise, researchers and data journalists survey indigenous populations and environments for a variety of clients and purposes to understand and measure local sentiment and conditions. The sum of this activity is copious amounts of valuable data, yet it’s data that all too often is not part of any large-scale data system.

At the same time, a growing number of social-change NGOs are systematically putting data to work, collecting citizen-generated and other data and using it to drive social change interventions. As they do, they are grappling with a host of challenges from data access, to verification, to ethics in data use, to addressing the needs of data consumers.

This second event in the deep dive series will focus on closing the gap between big data and local data (“ground truth”) and the associated problems of verification and ethics as well as data needs of change-makers and peace-builders. It will convene a small group of selected data generators, data integrators, and data users, along with those who support their work. The event will look at the accomplishments of big data and its enduring shortcomings; hear from media NGOs and other data generators on use of data in their work and its broader utility for social-change organizations; discuss the inherent challenges of interpreting and acting on the data; and explore models for integrating macro and micro data into effective systems. Data needs of local partners, verification (“fake news”), accuracy and representativeness, ethical limits on data use, among other attendant issues will all be part of the conversation. Ultimately, the deep dive will seek to discern how best to harness all data, big and small, to drive social change.