Change Happened: Big Data for a Better World 2017

25 Nov

Northeastern Ohio nonprofit innovators met for first annual Big Data for a Better World Conference on November 16 at Hyland Software’s sprawling Westlake, Ohio campus. Leading Hands Through Technology (LHTT) and Workman’s Circle teamed up to offer the event for local nonprofits to discuss how analytics could be used to help their organization’s stay profitable and sustainable. The conference, sponsored by Hyland Software and Kent Displays, captivated the attendees offering participants the chance to ask the panelists and keynote speaker questions.

Panelists included Leon Wilson from the Cleveland Foundation, David M. Holmes from the Foundation Center and Jason Therrien from Thunder::Tech. Moderated by Marc Majers, the founder of LHTT, the session focused on questions ranging from where a nonprofit should start with analytics to how an organization should continue to grow their metrics. Mr. Wilson focused on planning funding for nonprofits so they can ultimately gain traction with their mission. Leon stated that in order to start and grow metrics, organization’s need to carefully plan how they are going to generate donations and funding. Mr Holmes, a veteran of the Foundation Center, highlighted that there is a plethora of free resources to help organizations understand how to increase their reach. David gave examples of groups that walked into his center wondering how to strengthen their efforts and left with a solid game plan. The key to strengthening their efforts was first determining what they wanted to achieve. Jason spoke about using analytics as a bargaining chip to negotiate with other groups; it is amazing how most groups do not understand the value of their data and how they can use it. An organization must harness the power of their own information to effectively change minds.

The panelists stressed that nonprofits conduct an information audit and realize the what they are first own. Once organizations determine the information they have, then they must figure out what to focus on. Start with a goal and then map out a plan to accomplish it – a goal without a plan is just a wish. Find low hanging fruit and get small wins. One of these starting points is website analytics. Mr. Therrien specifically cited an organization that used Google Analytics in conjunction with Google Maps to pinpoint where donations are coming from. After doing the geographical overlay exercise, the organization identified that a high target donor area was not giving because they never canvassed the area. The group also stated that “Big Data” and “Data Scientists” are buzz words and each organization needs to define what these words need. “Big Data” from one organization to another can mean something totally different – do not get lost in the tech jargon.

Todd Packer, co-creator of the event and volunteer from Workman’s Circle, introduced the keynote speaker Kambiz Ghazinour, PhD from Kent State University who lead an intriguing session on how organizations should pay attention to how they encrypt their data. The keynote started by defining how “Big Data” was introduced during the dawn of the Internet and then moved to how it has evolved today.

Kambiz lectured that companies have time and time again run contests to challenge the world to crack their data and the Internet easily figured it out. The professor stressed that with just a few pieces of information like a date of birth, gender or ZIP, a person can be quickly identified. He referenced two examples from NetFlix and Yahoo; the two tech giants thought they had done enough to protect their customer’s identity, but that was far from the truth. Dr. Ghazinour stressed that nonprofit organizations must protect their constituents data at all costs and follow strong tactics to reduce risk of breech. He said, “Anonymization is difficult so any privacy guarantee must be proven and established formally, minimally.” If you would like review the presentation, please continue on SlideShare.

On behalf of Workman’s Circle, Leading Hands Through Technology would like to thank the speakers, sponsors, volunteers and the attendees of the first annual Big Data for a Better World Conference. If you would like to sign up for upcoming LHTT events or donate to the cause, please contact us.

 

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