Unlocking the Power of Data Refineries for Social Impact

Essay by Jason Saul & Kriss Deiglmeier: “In 2021, US companies generated $2.77 trillion in profits—the largest ever recorded in history. This is a significant increase since 2000 when corporate profits totaled $786 billion. Social progress, on the other hand, shows a very different picture. From 2000 to 2021, progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals has been anemic, registering less than 10 percent growth over 20 years.

What explains this massive split between the corporate and the social sectors? One explanation could be the role of data. In other words, companies are benefiting from a culture of using data to make decisions. Some refer to this as the “data divide”—the increasing gap between the use of data to maximize profit and the use of data to solve social problems…

Our theory is that there is something more systemic going on. Even if nonprofit practitioners and policy makers had the budget, capacity, and cultural appetite to use data; does the data they need even exist in the form they need it? We submit that the answer to this question is a resounding no. Usable data doesn’t yet exist for the sector because the sector lacks a fully functioning data ecosystem to create, analyze, and use data at the same level of effectiveness as the commercial sector…(More)”.