We spoke with four data for social impact leaders about our 2023 report Accelerate Aspirations: Moving to Achieve Systems Change. Dr. Bilal Mateen, Senior Manager, Digital Technology & Clinical Technology Lead Data for Science and Health for Wellcome, calls for simplicity in funder and data practitioner relationships.
During our recent conversation with practitioners and funders to launch the 2023 Data for Social Impact report — Accelerate Aspirations: Moving to Achieve Systems Change — we explored the timeless funder question: What does it take to create stronger funding models with longer time horizons, more flexibility, and better coordination?
According to Bilal Mateen, Senior Manager, Digital Technology & Clinical Technology Lead Data for Science and Health for Wellcome achieving these goals is easier than many think. The strength is in simplicity: asking the initial right guiding questions, bringing data practitioners to the funding table, and being ok with failure.
“This is a process of continual learning,” said Mateen. “By incorporating some simple steps in our work, we have seen substantial impact on the value of our work.”
Doing your homework
In an effort to solve hard problems, funders sometimes find themselves building the same things multiple times. The best way to avoid this duplication and maximize use of valuable resources is to prioritize some pre-work at the outset, including conducting a landscape analysis of solutions in the field, and asking important guiding questions — what’s been done before and who has done it.
It’s time to value the insights and experiences a tech generalist can bring to every funding decision including understanding the costs and complexities of implementing data solutions — from writing a line of code to hiring a data scientist. Effectively building the digital public good infrastructure requires having a cohort of tech generalists around the decision-making table to set reasonable expectations for grantees.
Philanthropists need to fund data-driven initiatives the same way they fund hypothesis-driven research: with an understanding that failure is possible. To create a responsive digital public infrastructure, funders must get comfortable with longer-horizon investments to sustain big tech projects that may not work — and learn from those efforts to inform the next ones. Embracing this uncertainty is vital for developing innovative models and tools that can be replicated at scale. To learn more about our work, download and share the Accelerate report and join our efforts to train one million purpose-driven data practitioners in the next 10 years.
2023 Data for Social Impact Report
Accelerate Aspirations: Moving Together to Achieve Systems Change
A comprehensive report on the key trends and tensions in the emerging field of data for social impact.