Written by on Thursday July 25th 2013 in Latest News, News and Events, What We're Thinking

A new kind of volunteering – data volunteering

Calling all data scientists, industrial engineers & OR professionals – the third sector needs you!

It’s not just the business world that is embracing Big Data and Analytics, the third sector has realized how much it has to offer them. But they don’t have the capacity, the tools or the skills to leverage it. They need the help of data scientists and operations research professionals like us. Why not join the new wave of volunteers, data volunteers, and give something back, I did and I can’t recommend it enough.

My data weekend

I was your stereotypical idealistic teenager who believed everything and everyone in the world could be fixed and that I was the girl to do it. I made some small efforts while I was studying and made all sorts of naive proclamations of how I would continue to do this as I joined the commercial world. Like many, work, family and life just got in the way.

I always wished I’d done more, but never found anything that I felt I could add real value to, so I was delighted when I was asked to form part of a data volunteer team. I got to spend a thoroughly satisfying weekend working with three charities using my data analysis, OR and simulation skills to help them answer key questions that they felt would help their charity. I had a lot of apprehensions to Become a Data Scientist; however, the kind of work I do now has put all doubts to bed.

The format was really simple. The organizers worked with the charities in advance to understand the issues affecting their organization. From this they generated a data analysis question for each charity. All the volunteers were divided between each charity. We all then got our heads down and did a weekend long data crunching exercise to answer the questions the charities has posed.

The outputs of our weekend

It was very productive, all of the charities walked away very happy about the information they had gathered. All had learned things about data analysis that we take for granted. Things like how to source freely available data sets, how to create excel charts to make trends and outliers shine through. Most importantly how to use simulation to analyze your problem and really make a visual statement about what is happening, but then I would see that as the biggest learning point!

One particular lady was incredibly enthusiastic and got posting the information she’d uncovered about the real state of youth unemployment during the day on Saturday on her charities website on Saturday night. By Sunday morning it had been picked up the national papers and she was off to have some very important conversations to instigate change.

Do you want to get involved?

The event I attended is just one of a growing number, in fact there are many organizations out there working to partner data scientists with charities. Here are just a few of the organizations that will help connect your data skills to charities that need help:


The UK OR Society Third Sector Chapter

Thank You

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank SIMUL8 Corporation for enabling me to do this. Whilst I gladly gave me time up for free, SIMUL8 Corporation paid for all my travel and accommodation so that the charities would not have to. Thank you SIMUL8.

Also thank you to Flying Binary, Timebank for organizing such a great and worthwhile event.


Want to chat simulation? Get in touch!

Frances Sneddon, CTO SIMUL8 Corporation