CorrelAid Strategy 2021 - Evolution

As we are growing (and growing and growing), it is time to tackle old challenges with a shifted mindset: With 1,600 members, 15 local chapters, 18 projects a year and a never ending stream of workshops, events and conferences, we need to scale up existing processes to accommodate for growing target groups. Both in our work with data analysts, scientists and enthusiasts and NPOs with a data-mindset, we want to become more effective and efficient, opening the doors to new fundraising and partnership opportunities.

2021-02-23 | Nina, Isabel, Frie

A. New, streamlined project cycles

From April 2021, most of our Data4Good projects will start during one of the four quarterly project cycles that will kick-off impact with a series of workshops and training for both volunteers and NPOs.

This major change in how we organize our projects is a result of a almost six-year learning process doing Data4Good skilled-volunteering projects. In particular, the in-person, weekend-long kickoff workshops have been a central success factor of our projects over the past years: They foster commitment and a common understanding on both the side of the volunteers and the representatives of the partner organization. At the same time, they offer the time and space for the transfer of knowledge and skills which are important to the quality of the project (such as data security, Git, project management, …).

Over the last 1-2 years, the number of projects we are doing per year has increased from ~5 per year to well over 15 projects per year. This - and the pandemic which has made our old in-person concepts obsolete - has posed challenges for project coordination, in particular with regards to the organization of high-quality kickoff workshops. With the project cycle, we want to take advantage of the online format and streamline the organization of those kickoff events - and the project phases following them. In addition, those online kickoff events will bring together and connect all CorrelAid project teams and partner organizations - a huge potential for synergy effects. The kickoff events will also serve as a wrap-up event for the projects that have ended in the time preceding the event. With a public online event at the start of the kickoff weekend, we want to give teams and partner organizations of finished projects the opportunity to present their results. By making the work of our volunteers and NPO partners more visible we hope to inspire more civil society actors to discover the potential of their data.

Letting projects start at the same time also enforces more structured and goal-oriented processes in the preceding phases of project scoping and team selection. At this point, we want to encourage volunteers of our community to get engaged in those critical phases as project coordinators and/or team selection committee members: After all, volunteering through talking to NPOs, scoping projects and finding teams makes our Data4Good projects happen in the first place.

Finally, the new project cycle will also include more structured and formalized data literacy learning opportunities for our NPO partners, complementing the informal learning processes already going in the projects.

B. Data literacy masterclass

The democratization of data science in civil society can only succeed if data literacy becomes a common good among all stakeholders. Empowering the civil society to not only understand but to maintain and develop their own data-driven solutions, fosters inclusive technological progress that develops from the bottom up instead of top-down. Alongside the new project cycle, we are launching a new toolbox at CorrelAid e.V. that is building on three educational pillars: Data strategy, data management and data analytics. This process is not only crucial for ensuring the quality of our work but education will be the segment most likely to ensure funding. This is why we hereby encourage our community to keep their eyes open for opportunities where we can showcase our material and knowledge.

Curious what aspects we can cover? For the project cycle, we are planning the following sessions:

  • As a warm-up, the introductory part will consist of training in IT project management, including digital project management, a special class on Git and client communication, and a part on team building, including insights on moderation, feedback, modus operandi and leaving room for making education not only valuable but also fun.
  • The first focussed education segment will target data strategy and include three topic areas: The development of data use cases, theory of change and impact indicators and data ethics and legal requirements. As the project targets are only broadly defined, the first workshop will aid volunteers and NPO representatives to define the vision of the collaboration in more detail and brainstorm technological solutions before making a final commitment.
  • The second segment on data management entails a fundamental workshop for NPOs defining data sources, research design, considerations for data quality and a digital tool party. It is followed by three use cases: Designing a survey, accessing data from the web and building a searchable database.
  • Last but not least a workshop on the fundamentals of data analytics will shed light on the different technologies and explain buzz words to NPO representatives, before use-casing interactive dashboards, automated reporting and small analytical tools. We will end with optional intro coding sessions for NPOs and a handover.

Besides the integration to the project cycle, we are also offering these workshops as bookable services through our website. We have started to build a set of workshops on digital data tools, such as Tableau, to also encourage simple data analytics tools. Stay tuned for more formats!

C. Thriving local communities

With our local chapters we have also organized our so far remote-only network, in a decentralized way. Our growing number of local chapters, located all over Germany and with branches in the Netherlands, France and Switzerland, pursue CorrelAid’s mission to democratize data science at the local level and thus also play a key role in our scaling-up strategy.

As well-coordinated teams, they build local structures, engage in close exchange with civil society, and implement our Data4Good projects locally. Through this involvement on the ground, they are excellent multipliers for CorrelAid’s educational aspirations in the area of expanding data literacy in local civil society.

What are key needs for this approach? Targeted education and training of our volunteers in the above mentioned areas of data strategy, data management and data analysis. Such knowledge transfer empowers our volunteers and directly supports our bottom-up approach. We therefore strongly encourage our entire community to participate in our workshop formats, further develop our materials and concepts, and become educational multipliers.

Nina, Isabel, Frie

Nina, Isabel, Frie

Nina (Head of Data Literacy), Isabel (Head of Community Management) and Frie (COO) are the three full-time employees of CorrelAid and make up the - currently remote - Berlin office of CorrelAid.