Conference Overview

The technologies that connect us and provide unimaginable opportunities to effect positive change can also expose us to potential liabilities and tremendous risks. This year’s Data on Purpose was a mix of plenary and breakout sessions, examining some of the larger forces for good and ill shaping public discourse and action (from click-tivism to cyber-hate, from movement-building to fake news), and presenting emerging technologies and tools that can make the work of social innovation more efficient and effective. 

Additionally, over the course of the two days we featured a series of quick “Technology for Good” presentations, where organizations addressing various challenges (education, health, environment, etc.) demonstrated how they are using the tools of the connected world to make a difference.



An Armchair Conversation with Brittan Heller and Kim Meredith

Brittan Heller and Kim Meredith

Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) Executive Director Kim Meredith will lead an armchair discussion with Brittan Heller, Director of the Center for Technology and Society for the Anti-Defamation League. Heller will discuss her work in Silicon Valley tracking cyber-hate and working in partnership with tech companies and law enforcement to reduce bigotry and ensure justice and fair treatment to all in online environments.

Changing Giving Behaviors: What to Think — and Rethink

Asha Curran

#GivingTuesday is a digital movement with real-life impacts: over $350 million raised online alone in 24 hours in 2017, nearly a billion raised online in its six years in existence, countless hours of volunteerism and acts of kindness, and dozens of countries using the initiative to grow cultures of giving and strengthen the very foundations of their civil societies. This session will examine what the sector can learn from the #GivingTuesday data that has been collected and analyzed so far—how rapidly the philanthropic landscape is changing, becoming both more digitally driven and more grassroots; how nonprofits can adapt to (even thrive in) that changing landscape; how people affiliate with and are moved by causes vs brands; and how we can, and must, rethink conventional social sector wisdom.

Tech for Good: The Role of People and Processes in Using Data Effectively and For Good

Janay Queen Nazaire

In order to fully leverage the accessibility, ease, and breadth of technology for gathering and utilizing data, practitioners must remember several key steps, including laying the necessary groundwork, developing a process, and understanding the people helping create that data. In this session, JaNay Queen Nazaire, managing director for Performance and Results at Living Cities, will outline this strategic vision, and how these key principles of results-based accountability have shaped their work to close racial income and wealth gaps, achieving dramatically better results for low income people.

Beyond Cryptocurrencies: Using Blockchain for Real-World Assets

David Mazières

Thanks to blockchain techology, parties who neither know nor trust each other can now engage in fast, inexpensive, and irreversible payments. So far, the best-known implementation of blockchain are the new “cryptocurrencies,” which are making some people fabulously wealthy. But blockchain can also be used to facilitate trade in more traditional currencies, making it useful for remittance payments that immigrants send back to their home country, for example. To do this requires one to use what are called asset tokens, that derive value from known, trusted real-world counterparties – for instance, a bank issuing digital currency tokens redeemable for cash, or a telecom honoring mobile minute tokens. In this presentation Stanford computer science professor David Mazières will discuss how his nonprofit startup, Stellar Development Foundation, is creating an open-source technology platform using asset tokens that will enable organizations to engage in transfers of assets of all kinds. This new platform has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of, and increase the access to, all types of financial transactions—a development that could be of life-changing importance to the billions of people around the world who remain unbanked.

Sidebar: Blockchains for Social Good — Hype or Reality

Nikki Brand and Ben El-Baz

Distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain present an immense opportunity to address myriad challenges, including land rights, energy provision, and financial inclusion. Yet with so many organizations and initiatives out there using blockchain to solve for these challenges, how can we sift through the hype and determine which initiatives show the most promise, and contribute to the highest levels of impact for end users? In this session, Nikki Brand will present the initial findings from Blockchain for Social Good, an ongoing research initiative from the Stanford Graduate School of Business focused on cataloguing how blockchain is being used to drive social good and solve significant social challenges. A short Q&A will follow the presentation to allow participants to share feedback and contribute their own examples.

Opening Up to Data: The Open 990 as a Strategic Tool

Neville Vakharia

The recent release of electronic data from more than one million nonprofit tax forms was anticipated to usher in a new era of transparency and innovation in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Access to this detailed information can better inform policy decisions, philanthropic support, and nonprofit organizational effectiveness. Despite this progressive action by the IRS, limited progress has been made in the strategic use of this resource. This interactive session and dialog will investigate the current state of open nonprofit data, the challenges and opportunities it presents, and demonstrate emerging tools to provide powerful insights for nonprofit and philanthropic sector leaders.

Doing the Right Thing: Privacy Policy in the Absence of Regulation

Tracy Ann Kosa

Privacy is a particularly tricky domain because it is legislated. Legislation is open to interpretation, differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and is subject to conceptual (mis)understandings that often take significant time to resolve. One would assume with all this regulatory complexity, there would be zero gaps in coverage. However, the US nonprofit sector and the charitable sector are overlooked as entities that collect, use and disclose personal information – of clients, donors and employees. Academic research in this space tends to focus on ethical issues, which leaves many practical questions open. Join Tracy Ann Kosa as she discusses a research project that sets out to fill these practical gaps, by building a simple open interface intended to provide research-based and data-driven advice and guidance on best practices in the management of all kinds of personal information specifically for those in the nonprofit sector. This session will provide some background on the methodology and development of the tool, but will mostly focus on case studies and examples of the advice and guidance / best practices for managing information in a privacy respectful way and provide a walk through of the tool live.

Data for What? The Importance of Humans in an Age of Intelligent Machines

Eric Berlow

Most of the deep insights to be gleaned from data require leveraging machines to find patterns that are invisible to the naked human brain. There are two ways we can do that – one risks making humans dumber, the other helps make us smarter. In this session, Eric Berlow will make a case for the latter, by outlining the importance of visual interfaces that help humans think critically with data so that we train machines to answer the right questions.

Tech for Good: The 2016 Digital Impact Grantees

Lucy Bernholz, Greg Bloom, Jon Elbaz, Tracey Gyateng, Di Luong, Laura Walker McDonald, and Neville Vakharia

Meet the inaugural cohort of Digital Impact Grantees and learn how they are building a higher impact social sector founded in responsible digital data use and infrastructure.

Big Data in a Big City

Shireen Santosham, Erica Garaffo, Erika Salomon, and David V. Johnson

Join us for a discussion on how San Jose, America’s 10th largest city and the biggest one in Silicon Valley, uses big data analytics to improve housing inspections. To better serve its one million residents, San Jose worked with UChicago’s Data Science for Social Good team to efficiently prioritize which multiple housing units to visit first to maximize the effort of inspectors. In the session will be Shireen Santosham, San Jose’s Chief Innovation Officer; Erica Garaffo, San Jose’s Data Analytics Lead; and Erika Salomon, Data Science Fellow at UChicago’s Center for Data Science and Public Policy. Session moderated by David V. Johnson, Senior Editor, Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Data Privacy: Moving from Mandate to Mission

Lucy Bernholz, Alix Dunn, and Amy O'Donnell

In May 2018 the EU General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect. Civil society organizations in Europe played a large role in getting this law passed. The law recognizes personal data as belonging to the people from whom it is generated, and requires organizations that collect or use information on EU citizens to protect those rights. Oxfam has been working on developing data practices based in the same human rights framework that guides the organization’s work. This conversation will look at the requirements of the GDPR, what they mean for your nonprofit, and how to think about moving beyond compliance to data practices that fully align with your organizational mission.

From Beneficial AI to Big Indicators: Technology in the Service of Humanity

Andrew Zolli

Andrew Zolli, Vice President, Global Impact Initiatives at Planet Inc. will discuss big data, AI and real-life considerations for “what comes after.” Zolli’s team has deployed the largest constellation of Earth-observing satellites in history. This session promises to be highly visual, presented by one of the leading voices in global sustainable development, humanitarianism, and scientific impact.

Missing Voices, Missing Opportunities; How Self-Generated Data Can Help Communities Shape their Own Futures

Elisabeth Mason, Antwi Akom, and Mauricio Lim Miller

To date the data collection story has focused on how companies, countries, etc. collect and use data about communities. What happens when, instead, we put the power to frame the question and collect information directly in the hands of these communities themselves? Join Elisabeth Mason, Director and Founder of the Stanford Technology and Poverty Lab, as she talks to Mauricio Lim Miller, McArthur Genius and Founder of Family Independence Initiative and Antwi Akom, Founding Director of Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab (SOUL) and Founder of Streetwyze for a provocative conversation with some surprising punchlines!

Tech for Good: Leveraging Tech to Create a Compassionate Community

Tiffany Apczynski, Brittany Hodge, and Omid Khazaie

Many nonprofits struggle with making their resources widely available to the people they serve. This creates an opportunity for tech companies to bridge the gap by pooling their collective brainpower and leveraging data insights to extend and enhance a nonprofit’s reach. In this talk, Tiffany Apczynski, VP of Public Policy and Social Impact at Zendesk, along with Brittany Hodge, and Omid Khazaie from St. Anthony’s Foundation will discuss ways that nonprofits can partner with tech companies to provide their services more effectively. Together, they will provide a case study on LinkSF — a mobile site created by Zendesk engineers in partnership with St. Anthony’s Foundation to help homeless citizens in San Francisco locate resources like food, shelter, healthcare, hygiene and technology. Attendees will learn how nonprofits can partner with tech companies to further their cause, as well as the role tech companies can play in giving back to their local communities, and the global community at large.

Data in Trust, We Trust

Sean McDonald, Marcy Lauck, Genevieve Maitland Hudson, and Pat Clark

If 2017 has shown us anything, it’s the public importance of decisions we make based on privately owned platforms and data. We have also seen the tremendous ways in which shared data ecosystems can work in the public interest – from improving public services to augmenting research to engaging citizens. Data is a generative asset – the same information can be used for mutually beneficial, non-competitive uses. But the way that we build organizations isn’t designed for inter-organizational data sharing and governance. The social sector, though, is rising to the challenge – and has developed a way to build data systems we can trust: Civic Data Trusts. Civic Data Trusts – the digital equivalent of land trusts – are being developed to ensure public oversight of everything from the Silicon Valley school systems to the United Kingdom’s artificial intelligence investments to landmark medical research. In each case, governments, civil society, industry, researchers, and data subjects collaborate to decide how to use data to maximize public benefit. This panel will feature a mix of Civic Data Trust practitioners explaining the process that brought them to using this approach, the benefits and challenges that they’ve seen so far, and what their priorities and predictions are for 2018.

Being a Force for Social Good with Advanced Analytics

Sri Raghavan and Nitin Deo

This session will discuss how advanced analytics can be leveraged to deliver socially beneficial outcomes. The first part of the discussion will focus on a deep-dive of a representative sample of use cases from across various geographies where analytics on diverse data have delivered insights that have resulted in policy changes to affect the maximum amount of public good. In the latter half of this session we will provide our view on how organizations and entities can acquire meaningful data (structured and unstructured) that can be used in a meaningful manner to deliver significant benefits, and share an actionable analytics template that can be used towards developing and sustaining a data driven culture of making decisions and delivering efficient social programs.

Tech for Good: From Data-Overload to Data-Driven - Utilizing BI Tools to Make Your Work Smarter

Jaclene Roshan

Is your organization sitting on top of a hidden data goldmine? In an age of “data-driven” business models, how do we mature from end-of-year analysis reports to real-time actionable dashboards? Join Jaclene Roshan to hear how myAgro, an award-winning non-profit social enterprise based in West Africa, is investing in Business Intelligence in order to transform hundreds of thousands of data points collected during mobile transactions into actionable insights that drive business decisions each and every day.

Digital Security from the Ground Up: Building Capacity at Your Organization

Josh Levy

While many civil society organizations recognize the vulnerability of their cloud storage systems, communications infrastructure, and networks, few are equipped to make the kind of organizational changes needed to ensure the security and resilience of their data. We need a new approach to digital security capacity building for civil society organizations, placing it at the root level alongside other core organizational functions. In this interactive session, organizational leaders and policymakers will develop strategies for addressing digital security from the ground up, including getting leadership to drink the digital security Kool-Aid; developing and implementing internal policies; training leadership and staff on best practices and getting them to stick to new habits; and ideas for fundraising to support such efforts.

Tech for Good: How Laboratoria is Transforming Latin-American Women's Lives Through Technology

Daniela Sarzosa Castillo

Laboratoria is a social enterprise that empowers young women from low-income backgrounds by giving them a career in tech that transforms their future and the industry that receives them. Laboratoria offers to Latin American women access to high quality education and a job in the digital sector. We provide an effective solution to two different, but related, problems: i) The lack of quality education and work opportunities for millions of low-income young women in Latin America and ii) The lack of gender diversity in a fast-growing tech sector. We select, train and place young women as web developers. We love to think of ourselves as a tech enabled and data driven organization that is taking advantage of a market need to empower young women by teaching them coding skills. We identify young women with the potential to work as coders and take them through an immersive 6-month training program in web development and personal growth. Envisioning ourselves as the leading source of female tech talent in Latin America has pushed us to innovate constantly on how we select the best talent, the way we teach, and the strategies we use to place our graduates on the labor market. This innovation is highly based on the search of new technologies and digital platforms that facilitate the way we interact with our applicants, students, and potential employers. We will present how technology and data have become our main tools to change women’s lives in Latin America.

Closing Keynote: Kathleen Kelly Janus, Author, Social Startup Success

Kathleen Kelly Janus

Join Kathleen Kelly Janus, award-winning social entrepreneur, author, and lecturer at Stanford University. Having recently published Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference–Kelly Janus will close Data on Purpose discussing insights from her experience in philanthropy, Millennial engagement, and scaling early-stage organizations. Session description to come.