19 April 2022

How data science can assist in generating social impact with the Data Science Group

There is value for philanthropic institutions, just like there is value for other enterprises and institutions, in optimising, measuring and quantifying existing processes but also supporting more evidence-based decisions and policies. In addition, philanthropy has a unique role in activating an ecosystem for the public value of data. The field of Data Science is experimental and requires constant novel approaches and this mindset needs to be adopted when considering the goals and strategies of a data driven enterprise.

On 5 April, the latest edition of the Data Science Talks by the Data Science Group took place on the subject of “Data Driven Enterprises.” Participants were able to see the entire picture, as colleagues from Fondazione CRT and the Top IX Consortium presented not just their newly launched Impact Deal accelerator, but framed the entire discussion. As with previous sessions, participants were encouraged to ask questions throughout the session and continue the conversation in the Q&A part of the hour.

Ciro Cattuto, Steering Committee Member, Fondazione CRT and Director, The Data Science for Social Good Center at OGR Torino, started the presentations by providing context on how data science can assist in generating social impact. He began by reflecting on the fact that the current digital ecosystem is sub-optimal in the types of value that it creates from data and in how it shares this data with other stakeholders. Many of the digital tools that we use in our everyday lives have amplified previous divisions in society and are dictated by big tech giants. Ciro then went on to explain the three action pillars which can help guide non-profit organisations and foundations to help foster an ecosystem for the public value of data.

The first pillar concerns knowledge: a stronger support for basic and applied research in data science and artificial intelligence, meant both as a way to activate an entire ecosystem with openly accessible knowledge, and as a way to support increasingly data-driven beneficiaries. The second pillar revolves around skills: training and connecting a new generation of data professionals, educated at the interface of different sectors, so that the ecosystem can be more efficient in connecting demand and supply or data. The final pillar focusses on networking and Ciro gave the example of creating new perimeters for trusted data sharing and re-use across corporates, the public sector, and the non-profit sector, so that social impact considerations are well represented in critical conversations about the value of data. All of these pillars exist in the context of developments at the European level, which continues its regulation of the use of data both in Europe but also as a model for other geographies, e.g. the new Data Governance Act and the Data Act. Ciro finished his presentation by looking at the three actors who partake in the ecosystem: problem owners, data owners and knowledge holders, and how foundations can better activate these kinds of triangular conversations.

Stefania Coni, International Projects Coordinator, Fondazione CRT, then presented on the work of Fondazione CRT in the field of data science spanning many years, back to the early 1990s. In particular, the foundation gives a lot of attention to data science for social good and has a centre in the same name. CRT has provided over 800 research grants over the years through their Lagrange Project and has cemented itself as a key actor within the ecosystem. These activities and efforts led to the context for the creation of their accelerator for impact enterprises: the Impact Deal.

Christian Racca, Programme Manager, TOP-IX Consortium, gave an overview of the recently launched Impact Deal, a data-driven accelerator programme launched by Fondazione CRT and OGR Torino in partnership with Microsoft, TOP-IX Consortium, The Data Science for Social Good Center, Impact Hub, Ashoka and The Data Appeal Company. He began by explaining that the Impact Deal consists of an acceleration networking and training programme, which aims to generate a positive societal and environmental impact through data-driven cross-sector collaborations. It is increasingly becoming common knowledge that data and impact are central to enterprises with a social mission. However, these organisations need skills and resources in order to be able to utilise data.

Having reached the end of the first call for proposals just a couple of days before the webinar, the main goal is to unleash the real value of private and public organisation data by means offered by the acceleration programme. For the first edition, data will come from Città di Torino, Fondazione Snam, Sella Bank and TIM that together from the Impact Deal Data Club. Christian went on to explain the timeline of Impact Deal, including the call for enterprises as well as the two acceleration phases. He finished his presentation by discussing the key opportunities but also open challenges that the partners face.


Daniel Spiers
Programme Manager – Peer-Exchanges & Knowledge
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