Now, he says, the department is armed with tangible results that can provide justification for investments in their data infrastructure and data collection efforts.
"Ultimately, this could not only improve New York's pruning program, it could be applied to any other city that has a similar pruning program," says Jake Porway, founder and executive director of DataKind, which brought Dalessandro and the Parks department together.
DataKind Pioneering New Form of Corporate Civic Engagement
Comprised of a group of "conscientious data scientists, NPO/NGO gurus, do-gooder CIOs and dedicated organizers," DataKind's mission is to use data in the service of humanity. For instance, Porway says, DataKind works with Refugees United to use analytics and recommendations to bring together families of refugees who have been displaced and separated in the process.
"You're not just using data to report," Porway says. "You're applying it to real humanitarian issues."
DataKind regularly schedules weekend events called DataDives that team three selected social organizations that have well-defined data problems with volunteer data scientists to tackle their data challenges. The events are completely free. The Parks department had come to DataKind for a DataDive.
In addition, DataKind maintains the "DataCorps," a select group of data scientists who work on volunteer or contract data projects part-time. They work for one to six months on targeted data projects. They are either paid by the organization or sponsored by the private companies they work for. Finally, DataKind maintains a full-time in-house staff of data scientists to take on the most pressing and high-impact problems.
"I didn't do all this on the weekend and late at night," Dalessandro says. "I did a lot of this while I was at work, but I did it with the blessing of my CEO and marketing people. They thought it was a great idea. It wasn't weeks and months of my time. It was a few hours here and there. I was able to use company servers and they were completely cool with it. They like it when the data scientists are active with the community."
"This, to me, is an amazing example of corporate engagement," Dalessandro adds. "If more companies can actually donate people who are highly skilled in a particular area to these underfunded organizations, whether charities or civic organizations, to me it's the most amazing form of corporate civic engagement I can think of. This is something I want to continue doing as long as I'm in the private sector."
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