Datapitch (and Dinner)

by Emma Tomkinson

“I’ve never laughed so much talking about social impact”

(participant in SIMNA NSW Datapitch)

The idea

On Thursday 23rd October 2014 we experimented with a new model of event for SIMNA NSW. Rather than our usual format of breakfast case study and discussion, this was a dinner-party style event where we truly got our ‘hands dirty’ with data. The event was part of the 2014 Changemaker’s Festival.

The idea came from Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA) joint objective 3 “Advancing Practice: Developing new know-how to push the frontiers of social impact measurement and analysis.” The way we went about achieving this, was to give a whole bunch of people the same dataset and see what they did with it. (Internationally, this was achieved via the SIAA Challenge team event in October 2014.)

At SIMNA NSW our motto is ‘give it a go’, so we thought this sounded like a fun way to spend an evening working in teams and learning from each other.

The Event

So nine intrepid analysts came together on the night of Thursday 23rd for three hours to see what they could pull from the massive ‘Our House’ dataset of qualitative and quantitative data. This was real data from a real supported housing charity in Canada. We formed three teams and had 75 minutes to identify an issue, choose a stakeholder to address it and pitch a case for change to them. Teams judged one another on:

  1. Entertainment (10 points)
  2. Use of evidence (10 points)
  3. Compelling case (10 points).

Team 1 [winners – 111.7 points] put on an impressive air ping pong display as they begged other not-for-profits to end the back and forth of speculative ideas and use the evidence at hand to improve services.

Datapitch 1

Team 2 [110 points] put on three role plays:

1)      Exec Committee role play; ‘Success or failure’ – pointed out areas of progress and areas for improvement e.g. 100-160 eviction notices for non-payment or abandonment

2)      Impact consultants review role play; ‘Measurement methodology’ – story could be better told with a clearer Theory of Change and plan before data was collected

3)      Interview residents role play; ‘Activity interventions’ Our House delivered some great activities, but perhaps not all tailored to all residents. Plenty of learning and feedback loops here for action.

Datapitch 2

Team 3 [110 points] presented a powerpoint to Police, proposing a new program ‘blue on blue’, where Our House residents would develop and deliver a professional development program for local Police. This program would help Police gain a greater understanding of what it’s like to have a mental illness and what residents needed in terms of support from their Police. It was a response to qualitative evidence that Our House residents felt Police responses did not meet their expectations and that Police took their concerns less seriously than those of people without mental illnesses.

The feedback

Participants in the event said it was:

  • a good learning activity
  • good doing analysis with other people
  • interesting and enjoyable
  • hard!

There were some comments that there was too much data, that it was difficult not understanding the context of housing in Canada and not knowing who to pitch. It was said the dataset looked like real data, but part of this was that there was lots of data that wasn’t useful and not enough data on what was being sought and so a desire to revisit data collection.

Suggestions for improvement or change of event model:

  • have the documents or some relevant pre-reading in advance
  • give tips on how to narrow down to choose issues – to perhaps give examples of what another team had done
  • might have been good to have been given a problem to solve
  • a video might have helped set the context

Special thanks go to SIAA for the dataset and Hub Sydney for hosting us.

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