Foundations Investing Millions On Social Impact Data

The Rockefeller Foundation and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth will invest $50 million over five years to build the field of data science for social impact, starting with a $20-million investment in DataKind.

“Like the introduction of science to medicine 100 years ago transformed the delivery of health worldwide, we are poised to take the next big leap bringing data science to social impact,” Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, said in a blog post announcing the award. “The Data Science for Social Impact collaborative will help us inspire a new generation of social sector leaders using data for good,” he added. The will focus on three areas: capacity and leadership, tools and data, and policy and governance.

DataKind will identify key priorities and investment opportunities to accelerate data for good, including research, skills or new technology platforms. The investment will enable the nonprofit to move from a project- to a platform-based model, in which it will support more organizations on a set of common issues, including community health and inclusive growth.

Founded in 2011, DataKind specializes in matching volunteer data scientists to individual social organizations. It has chapters in New York, Singapore, Bangalore, London, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The organization has deployed expert volunteer data scientists and engineers from their network of more than 30,000 to work on more than 250 projects around the world.

The Brookyln, N.Y.-based charity reported total revenue of $2.6 million on its Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 for the Fiscal Year Ending 2017, with net assets of $1.27 million.

“In our quest to create a world where every social organization fighting for human prosperity can commission the data science solutions they need, we didn’t feel that more volunteer projects alone was the solution,” Jake Porway, founder and executive director of DataKind, said via a statement. “However, we did see that our pro bono projects were often the catalysts that drove nonprofits to embrace data science, foundations to fund more data science, or tech companies to adopt solutions we’d prototyped. We realized there was a way to rally our volunteer network to do more than just individual projects,” he said.

DataKind will take its work a step further, connecting data science capacity and skills at a higher level. It will help to bridge gaps between those who have data science resources to give, such as technology companies and foundations, and those who could use them, like nonprofits, governments, and social change organizations.

“Over the next year, we’ll be increasing our internal capacity, building out a new global strategy with our chapter leaders, and diving deep into our first portfolio of work in community health work,” Porway said.

“Right now, too many social and civic sector organizations don’t have the same tools or capacity as the private sector to realize the potential of data science, and the Collaborative is an important step forward to address that gap,” said Shamina Singh, president of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

For more information, visit www.rockefellerfoundation.org/dssi or www.datakind.org