Update from DataMission (and some questions)


A lot has happened since this posting, so it’s time for an update. We had two events, started tweeting more, and we have now over 400 members on meetup! So we see a lot of enthusiasm at the data community in the Netherlands for what we are trying to do. You too want to help MDOs (mission driven organisations) with the data analysis! Thanks for this!

What have we done in the past months? 

  • Judith Veenkamp has joined the organisers, to help us with communication to the MDOs. She wrote a very good Communication strategy, and she has good connections with the MDO world.
  • We helped a small MDO (which prefers to remain anonymous) with a data conversion task: we converted an an HTML file to a file which can be read by a spreadsheet. They were very happy with it!
  • We started the marketplace where smaller tasks are put online that can be done by a single volunteer.
  • We were working, a couple of months ago, with an MDO on a hackathon. But the MDO chose to give higher priority to other events.
  • We participated in the data4food challenge.

Unfortunately we haven’t managed so far to organize a big hackathon or to help an MDO with a large task. This is for multiple reasons:

  • It’s harder than we expected to find a problem to solve in a hackathon. Jake Porway (of DataKind) wrote an excellent article with five principles to apply data science for common good. There he wrote: In the immortal words of Henry Ford, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Right now, the field of data science is in a similar position. Framing data solutions for organizations that don’t realize how much is now possible can be a frustrating search for faster horses. If data cleaning is 80% of the hard work in data science, then problem discovery makes up nearly the remaining 20% when doing data science for good.
  • When we get in touch with people at MDOs who are excited about data analysis, getting the resources at the MDO needed to do something with the data is challenging
  • The big Dutch MDOs are now downsizing, due to the lower subsidy the receive (link in Dutch)
  • We underestimated the amount of time it takes to organise events and talk with interested MDOs. We’re all just a bunch of volunteers, so the amount of time that we can spend on organising stuff per week is limited, and mostly outside working hours. Let us know if you want to help us!

We have therefore decided to join existing Hackathon organizations as a partner. The first hackathon that comes up is: the Museumn8 Hackathon, Saturday 7 November. The aim is to find new ideas to improve mobility, navigation and crowd management in the city of Amsterdam. Although the best idea is awarded €3500 we challenge you to join for a societal cause. To invent solutions that make the city a better place to live and visit. We are very excited about it!

To meet more MDOs and to show them what’s possible with data, we will host a Data Desk at the Connected Development Camp. We are looking for DataMissionaries to join us, see here for more info.

We also have some questions for you. Please answer them in the comments or by contacting us on twitter (@datamission) or by mail!

  • So far we mainly communicate in English. Should we do more in Dutch?
  • Should we focus more on the smaller MDOs, and not on the big ones?
  • Should we focus less on Amsterdam? More on other cities?
  • Turning DataMission into a real foundation, with an ANBI “approval” is for now not a priority. Is that OK for you?
  • Should we focus on updating our website, e.g. with more examples of what MDOs outside The Netherlands can do with data? Or does a twitter search for #data4good provide more info than you need?

If you want to just wait till the next event, that’s fine, and we’re looking forward to see you! If you want to do something in the meantime visit the marketplace. Or ask at the MDO that you know whether DataMission can help!


The DataMission team.