Divided into three teams, the researchers worked with data from Twirl Taos which focuses on education through play, and Los Alamos-based Self Help, Inc., which connects individuals and families in need with essential resources, and provides emergency financial assistance and seed money grants.
The week-long in-person event was free for the nonprofits and was sponsored by the Lab's Information Science & Technology Institute and Community Partnerships Office.
“It was amazing for me to watch teams of data scientists from all different corners of the Lab with different technical backgrounds come together and focus their efforts on helping the community,” says Emily Teti, the lead organizer for the sprint. “I was blown away by the team leaders’ ability to quickly stand up a cohesive and productive team.”
Analyzing event attendance data
The team working with Twirl looked at attendance data from Twirl’s events from 2015 onwards, augmenting the information with publicly-available data to help identify factors that impact attendance, and assess geographic areas that might be under-represented at events.
“It was amazing for me to watch teams of data scientists from all different corners of the Lab . . . come together and focus their efforts on helping the community.”
They also looked for other potentially useful trends over time, and made recommendations about future data gathering that could enhance further analysis.
"The data sprint was an incredible learning opportunity for our agency," says Sandy Emory from Twirl. "The time spent preparing and visiting the Lab for the sprint was well worth the investment.
"The team's approach and openness to really understanding the realities faced by children living in Taos, in my opinion, helped bring light to different ways to look at and think about our data collection methods, process, and evaluation."
Exploring client calls
Partnering with Self-Help, two teams looked at data from around 2500 client calls to the nonprofit. The first group explored the stated needs of the clients (for example, emergency help with utility bills), and the causes associated with those needs. They also looked at patterns around clients who used the service more than once.
The second group carried out a budgetary analysis, looking at how Self-Help's expenditure compared to caller needs, and how well these patterns matched the nonprofit's service model.
Both groups also made suggestions to information gathering approaches that would help in measuring the effectiveness of programs in the future.
“We all knew that what we pulled out of the data would hopefully be helpful, but seeing how quickly actionable insights emerge when working with a diverse group with different goals and perspectives was unexpected and certainly encouraging,” says Teti.
The Data Sprint is part of the Community Technical Assistance (CTA) program that makes the unique expertise and capabilities of the Lab available at no cost to nonprofits, tribal and governmental entities located in the seven counties of Northern New Mexico.
You can learn more about applying for help under the CTA program here.