Using Data for Social Good
Data analysis is everywhere today. From Facebook to Amazon, from politics to community organizing, from federal to state and local government, data-analytic thinking drives much of the connected world. But what about opportunities to use data for social good?
In the past year, federal and state investments to end homelessness totaled over $46 million in Virginia alone. A small but significant portion of these funds is being invested in data-centric tools to help serve Virginia's homeless population.
Research shows that intervention at critical moments can make all the difference in the outcomes for people struggling with homelessness. However, there are many challenges to getting data in the hands of the right people at the right time. What can data teach us about this vulnerable population? And what opportunities to help can we identify through analysis?
Homeward is the planning and coordinating organization for homeless services in the greater Richmond region. As part of its mission, Homeward acts as the central resource for real-time community-level data, including documented service outcomes. Homeward integrates and analyzes data from a community-based Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). HMIS brings together critical data needed to manage what, for many, is an invisible and intractable social problem.
In this talk we'll explore using analysis of point-in-time data that allows us to track changes in the rate of homelessness, and the use of HMIS to track population-specific trends over time. We'll demonstrate a data-driven approach to ending homelessness through real-time access to actionable data at the local, community-level. We'll introduce Virginia's pilot project to achieve more accurate integration of other data sources that can support robust, data-driven decisionmaking.
Anyone who is interested in using data for social good should come learn about our efforts to combat homelessness. If you work with data at nonprofits or have an interest in working with nonprofits, this talk is for you, too. We are using a cloud-based data warehouse with a lot of open source tools, and everything we develop is freely available to developers interested in building on top of our tools.
Margot Ackermann, Ph.D., has over ten years of experience in homeless services. Since 2007, she has served as the Research and Evaluation Director at Homeward, the planning and coordinating agency for homeless services in the greater Richmond region.
In this role, she is responsible for coordinating data collection, analysis, and reporting for Homeward and its partners, with a focus on measuring outcomes of interest to service providers, funders, and policy makers. She has also been involved in several local efforts to examine the overlap between incarceration and homelessness and has played a role at the state level to bring analysis into the hands of people who can really use it.
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