DoGoodData Conference: Live Long and Prosper with Data for Good! | Beth's Blog

DoGoodData Conference: Live Long and Prosper with Data for Good!


Last week I attended the DoGoodData Conference in Chicago where I learned an incredible amount about the human side of data – themes like data visualization, data informed culture, using data for impact, and more. I also was honored to facilitate a reflection exercise as part of the closing plenary session with data for good rock stars Bob Filbin, Jeffrey Blandt, and Jake Porway. But none of this would not have been possible if not for the dedication, vision, and leadership from Andrew Means, who has passionately been working on creating a learning community of nonprofit professionals interested in data for social change called Data Analysts for Social Good.

Andrew served as the curator and host of the event, meticulously and brilliantly weaving together two days of plenary and break out sessions that well crafted and delivered by high quality speakers and facilitators.   It has been a long time since I’ve attended a conference where great content and instructional design were so well integrated.   I was a little intimidated going to the conference as I was afraid that all the content would be too much on the technical side of data for my tastes.  I was thrilled to attend sessions that perfectly match my interest in the human side of data along side more advanced technical topics.   I filled my journal with pages of notes, to dos, and inspiration for year long professional learning for myself.

Here’s a round up closing plenary and a brief  reflection about the plenary session and some great learning moments below.  I will also share my notes and reflections on other sessions at the conference in a second blog post.


With a conference so packed with powerful learning, there is the danger of arriving at the closing session with a brain too full to take in any more content and with no time and space to reflection and capture some highlights for learning – it’s all lost. It is also fantastic to connect with peers and meet new colleagues and exchange contact information, but without a collective call to action to create community that opportunity can be lost. So, bravo to Andrew Means for designing a great end to the conference that can lead to participants applying what they learned – that’s the true result.

The session began with an informal discussion between Andrew Means and Bob Filbin and Jeffrey Bladt — who are full-time data scientists for a nonprofit. As Andrew joked, 50% of the individuals work as data scientists for nonprofits. Andrew asked them about their work and what are the most important skills data scientists who work with nonprofits should have? They suggested looking for a person who has the curiosity to ask the right questions, learns quickly and is good with storytelling.

Next, I was honored to lead 800 data nerds through a reflection exercise that included a mindful moment, journaling exercise, and sharing meta observations with other colleagues — all to a Star Trek, including walking on stage to the Star Trek Theme.

There was something pretty powerful about having 800 people go silent to reflect inwardly and then do an interactive exercise where the room exploded into cacophony of people enthusiastically discussing what they will do once they get back to the office. The last step was to have each person write an email to their “future self” using It was also great to see some “accountability” tweets from people declaring what they implement.

Finally, Jake Porway gave fire-in-your-belly talk about the power of data good. He encouraged everyone in the room to share their successes and wins about data for a good. The big takeaway for all in the room is that we are not just a bunch of datanerds, but a community that can continue to learn from one another collectively. Building on the futureme exercise, he encourage people to get the contact information for a colleague and connect following the conference.

The registration is available for DoGoodData for 2016 – and I would encourage you to register because it is a fantastic learning experience.    If you attended the conference,  what will you put into action about using data to make decisions that lead to powerful results?


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