4 August 2022

How to make a foundation data-driven with the Data Science Group

Making the decision to become a foundation that puts data at the centre of its activity requires not just a vision, but the ability to translate that vision into practical and tangible steps. On 23 June, data scientists and enthusiasts gathered virtually for another Data Science Talks on “Data Driven Foundations” with Filippo Candela, Data Manager, Compagnia di San Paolo providing an overview of just that: how the foundation became data driven, alongside presenting a live demonstration of various data dashboards that he was involved in creating.

Filippo explained that the strategic decision to “recognise the value of data” was made in 2017 by the current president of the foundation. Three main fields were chosen to focus on; data management; data analysis; and data valorisation. Filippo went on to explain the evolution of the team from a Data and Knowledge Management Unit to a fully-fledged Data Hub. Some of the developments mentioned over these years include the launch of an Open Data Dashboard project but also the monitoring of a Strategic Plan covering the years 2021-2024. On incorporating the three aforementioned fields of focus into this strategy, different forms of actions were identified. For example, for data management, developing the key technical infrastructure was highlighted as a key step in accommodating increasing amounts of data that requires to be handled. Additionally for data valorisation, data literacy amongst staff at Compagnia di San Paolo was prioritised so to enhance the culture of data within the organisation.

On how the foundation became data-driven, Filippo mentioned many different themes including organisational change and governance expectations. He highlighted these themes to showcase the fact that, in his experience, he has spent more of his time on data management and literacy, rather than data science itself. It requires effort and time from the whole organisation as it is a truly reformative process. To better understand the topic of data management within an organisation, Filippo spoke on the theoretical framework that can be effective. The Data Management Framework created by the Data Management Association (DAMA) was shown to the other participants in the group, with Filippo emphasising the importance of DAMA’s role in assisting organisations in improving their data management. On activities carried out by Filippo and his team, these can be divided into three categories: internal support, strategic projects and data philanthropy. For the internal support given to colleagues, this is a part of an effort to make the use of data the norm across the organisation. The means by which the team encourages the adoption of this approach is through training, 1-1 support and a robust internal communications strategy.

Regarding the technology that has been adopted by the foundation, this is represented by the Enterprise Data Warehouse. Additionally, Microsoft Azure is utilised for the organisation’s cloud services and for the dashboards on the cloud, Power BI is used. After this presentation members of the group asked questions and had an open discussion, before Filippo went on to demonstrate some the dashboards of used by Compagnia di San Paolo. This includes one on the historical data of the foundation, as well as another showing how grantees are contributing to key KPIs that have been identified.


Daniel Spiers
Programme Manager – Peer-Exchanges & Knowledge