Event: Datakind London

Datakind data dive, London

Over the year I’ve been to three so-called ‘hack days’, one of which me and my team acci­dent­ally won (Hack the Government). The last of which my team just as acci­dent­ally lost didn’t win (Girl Geek Hack Day). The one in between however was the most intriguing, perhaps because it wasn’t a compet­i­tion at all.

Held in Whitehall on a blustery Autumn day, it was run by a bunch of people called Datakind, and some spon­sors who I’ve already forgot­ten the name of (sorry). Datakind used to be called Data Without Borders but changed their name a few years ago — I’m not sure why — and this was their first British event. They’d invited stats bods from around the coun­try to come help some char­it­ies get the most out of their data, and I thought I’d see whether I could help, despite not being a stats bod.

You can read all about it in the Guardian. Pay special atten­tion to the bits about the girl who arrived early and then left to go club­bing, because that was me… ahem.

My first, bleary eyed, work-fatigued impres­sion was that they were Very Definitely American. They were so damn cheer­ful and sincere it was infec­tious. Even to a cynical and occa­sion­ally slightly suspi­cious Brit like me. At this point (inbetween pastries) I got talk­ing to some people who actu­ally knew about stat­ist­ical analysis, and got a little down­hearted — I had noth­ing like their expert­ise! I’m just some oddball inform­a­tion designer in need of a bit of practice.

I plumped for Place2Be as my project. They were all very worthy but this one had the most poten­tial for impact that I saw — the data was all about treat­ments for kids with beha­vi­oural prob­lems and our mission was to find out what worked, and what didn’t. There was a lot of Heavy Discussion about data cleans­ing and appro­pri­ate formats and soft­ware which was way beyond me, so I did some extremely rudi­ment­ary pivot tabling to see if I could gener­ate some ques­tions we might want to answer — and came up with what I thought were some intriguing curi­os­it­ies. Did girls really do better in the programme if they had single dads? etc, etc.

Most of which turned out to be nonsense, because I simply don’t know enough about stat­ist­ics. But I felt help­ful. Sometimes.

In the end it turned out we had the Wrong Sort of Data anyway — which is much like the Wrong Sort of Snow and about as help­ful, so our find­ings didn’t end up being spec­tac­u­lar or transformative.

But it piqued my curi­ous­ity, so now I’ve signed up for a Coursera data … erm… course. Lets hope it helps.

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Corinne Pritchard

Information Designer at Simply Understand
I believe design and design­ers can and should make the world a better place. I love design­ing things that help people under­stand complex ideas.

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