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From Homelessness To Human Trafficking

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How a NYC nonprofit is using big data to make a difference

The astute amongst you may have noticed we at Markets For Good have started trialling, (amongst many other tools) to help us better measure our social media data – specifically on Twitter. What you probably didn’t know, is that there is also a In the following post, we highlight an article from Forbes, where Federico Guerrini sheds light on some exceptional big data projects.

The original aticle is a real source of inspiration for those of us looking for examples of great data usage, and features the SumAll Foundation CEO, Stefan Heeke. For Stephen, and the team behind SumAll, their “sweet-spot are data-rich, high impact projects related to an issue of interest where we partner with an organization with access to operational data.” In other words, they’re using their experience handling and analysing big data to help bring to life the work of various nonprofits.

They have a real variety of partners ranging from the Clinton Foundation, working on prescription drug abuse through to Humanitarian Tracker analysing data from the Syrian crisis. They even created a publicly availabletool to document the crisis thus far.

Heeke goes onto explain how they also work “with eviction data and shelter history, enhanced by open data to create a model for predicting at-risk families and improving the outreach.” Prevention (across all cause spaces) is of course far more humanitarian and cost effective than the appropriate solution, yet this has previously have been near impossible to estimate.

Given some of the recent articles around data, Heeke is confident in claiming “big Data is a bit of a hype now and may have created unrealistic expectations, but it’s certainly not a mistake to leverage it responsibly. I have seen many cases where data has been transformational and well applied.”

The conclusion of Federico’s interview with Heeke is very much that you have to first understand the context of data, before you look to correlations. As Heke puts it, “It’s like flying: with properly licensed and trained pilots, aviation is safe.” Asking intelligent questions about the data, its plausibility, how it was gathered, and of its relevance will increase the likelihood of analysis leading to discover. Then big data can become great data.


After such insights, be sure to follow Federico Guerrixni and Stefan Heeke, and enjoy diving deeper into both the original article and all the examples they highlight. Why not tweet us your favourite uses of big data, here at Markets For Good