2023 Data for Social Impact Report

Accelerate Aspirations: Moving Together to Achieve Systems Change


To solve our greatest global challenges, we need to accelerate how we use data for good. But to truly make data-driven tools that serve society, we must re-imagine data for social impact more broadly, more inclusively, and in a more interdisciplinary way. 

So, we face a choice. Business as usual can continue through funding and implementing under-resourced and siloed data projects that deliver incremental progress. Or we can think and act boldly to drive equitable and sustainable solutions. 

Accelerate Aspirations: Moving Together to Achieve Systems Change is a comprehensive report on the key trends and tensions in the emerging field of data for social impact.  

What is Data for Social Impact (DSI)?

DSI is a nascent field that uses data, data science methods, and modern technologies to benefit people, communities, organizations, and the environment. DSI has already transformed and driven innovation across a wide range of industries, and delivered new ways to analyze giant datasets, advance predictive models, and harness machine learning for societal and environmental benefit.

Women entrepreneurs in Iringa, Tanzania. Photo by Solar Sister.


  • Bring visibility to the nascent field of data for social impact (DSI) and the ways in which it can transform global interventions and services and drive resilience.

  • Explore the potential to accelerate the strategic growth of this sector, particularly when it comes to increasing, sustaining, and nurturing the talent pool of interdisciplinary data professionals.

  • Offer recommendations for how to dramatically apply, govern, share, fund, and expand access to purpose-driven data around the world.

The problem isn’t that they don’t have data. It’s that they don’t have the tools to contextualize and understand the value of their data. The first step is helping them ask—what data do we have? What does that data mean?

Jackie-Mwaniki Jackie Mwaniki Energy Sector Lead Fraym

By the numbers

Accelerating Aspirations

  • 90%

    of Data Maturity Assessment respondents report that their organization is fully or somewhat committed to investing in data tools, training, and staff.

  • Over 52%

    of Data Maturity Assessment respondents report that their organizations only sometimes, never, or rarely use the data they have to better understand their programs.

  • 79%

    of Data Maturity Assessment respondents feel they have the technology or tools to collect data.

  • 65%

    of Data Maturity Assessment respondents feel they had tools to conduct analysis.

  • 86%

    of 2021 All In National Inventory respondents agreed that their organizational leaders have a clear idea of how data can be used to drive decisions.

  • 54%

    of 2021 All In National Inventory respondents indicated that funding requirements still define what data they choose to collect.

Data Maturity Assessment

data.org is committed to the capacity building of mission-driven organizations that seek to integrate data and data science into their work. As such, we recently launched the Data Maturity Assessment, a tool to help SIOs measure and understand their capabilities and connect them with the resources they need to move forward.

Take the Data Maturity Assessment

Recommendations for advancing the field

  1. 1

    Improve data strategies

    through common governance and tools, data sharing, aligned incentives, and most importantly, cross-sector coordination.

  2. 2

    Build a more diverse and interdisciplinary workforce

    of purpose-driven data practitioners who can locally drive change.

  3. 3

    Create stronger funding models

    with longer time horizons, more flexible structures, and better coordination to build sustainable and interoperable solutions.

What are community data ecosystems?

Community data ecosystems are made up of the what, the who, and the how that enables data sharing and collaboration within a community. They include data infrastructure, tools, user capabilities, standards, and policies.

Operator of a cold room at one of the pilot sites set up by Oorja in Muzzarfapur, Bihar, India. Photo by BASE/Empa.

In our quest to solve a problem, we create more problems which might lead to exclusion, inequality or fairness, irresponsibility… and that’s why I will emphasize the discipline of getting it right.

Bayo Adekanmbi Bayo (Olubayo) Adekanmbi CEO Data Scientists Network


This report would not be possible without the contributions of the experts and ecosystem actors, who shared their expertise through interviews. We are grateful for the time and effort they gave to this project, as well as for the work they do every day on behalf of the communities they serve and the systems they are trying to change.

In particular, we are grateful for insights and ideas from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Arthan, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Mellon, Chase, Chintu Gudiya Foundation, Columbia Financial Investment Group, Connect Humanity, Dalberg Data Insights, Dasra, Data Orchard, Data Science Nigeria, DataKind, Fraym, Fundación Capital, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), Google, GovLab, GSMA, IDinsight, Independent, India Leaders for Social Sector (ILSS), International Development Research Centre (DRC), JPMorgan, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Microsoft AI for Good, Mojix, NESTA, NetHope, Open Data Institute (ODI), Paul Ramsay Foundation, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Javeriana), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), The Rockefeller Foundation, Social Good Brasil, SOS Children’s Villages International, Splunk, Tanzania Data Lab (dLab), TechSoup, The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), The African Capacity Building Foundation, The Agency Fund, Ushahidi, United Nations, Universidad de los Andes, University of Chicago, Wellcome, Women in Data Science (WiDS), World Bank, World Resources Institute (WRI).

This report was made possible by a grant from Splunk and continuing support from our founding partners, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and The Rockefeller Foundation.

The video on this report was provided by BASE/Empa, Solar Sister, SOS Children’s Villages International, and Tanzania Data Lab (dLab).

Photo below: Pratima Baral, researcher at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) leading a workshop with female farmers in Surkhet, Nepal. Photo by C. de Bode/CGIAR.

data.org reports may be republished in accordance with our Terms and Conditions.


Accelerate Aspirations: Moving to Achieve Systems Change

A comprehensive report on the key trends and tensions in the emerging field of data for social impact.

Download the report

data.org In Your Inbox

Was this report useful?

Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you more content like this every month.

By submitting your information and clicking “Submit”, you agree to the data.org Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions, and to receive email communications from data.org.