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Articles > Nonprofits News > DataKind UK Q&A: Using Data Science for the Service of Humanity

DataKind UK Q&A: Using Data Science for the Service of Humanity

ToucanTech interviews Nicole Holgate, Communications Officer of DataKind UK

ToucanTech interviews Nicole Holgate, Communications Officer of DataKind UK. Every person reading this is likely to have given information about themselves to an organisation. When used properly and ethically (and stored in a secure database like ToucanTech), it can help charities and the other social change organisations to better support communities.

1. Tell us about DataKind! What is their mission and what do they strive to accomplish? 

DataKind UK supports charities, local government, and social enterprises to use data science to improve their impact. We bring nonprofits and data scientists together for drop-in surgeries; weekends of analysis and exploration; and long-term data science projects that transform the organisation's impact. Projects are run by pro bono data scientists, who volunteer their time and skills to help change the world!

2. Why is data so important and how can it benefit humanity? 

The data footprint that individuals and organisations leave behind is a reflection of what we do and who we are, which is why it has become such a commodity in recent years. Every person reading this is likely to have given information about themselves to an organisation. When used properly, it can help charities and the other social change organisations to better support communities. 

3. What events do you normally hold? How often do they take place?

We run three types of events:

  • Our DataDives are weekend-long data hacks, focused on exploratory analysis and prototyping. The aim here is for the social change organisation to see what’s possible with data and data science - and they are free too! :-)

  • We also undertake ambitious DataCorps projects to deliver cutting-edge data science solutions in social change organisations. 

  • For those needing lighter touch support, we have regular Office Hours sessions. These are free, hour-long chats with data experts, whether to tackle a technical challenge, talk about data strategy, or find out where to begin!

We also have a Data Ethics Book Club every six weeks, which is open to anyone interested in talking about data science and its ethical consequences - find it on Eventbrite!

4. What are some charities/foundations you have worked with?

Where to begin! Most recently, we held a DataDive with Citizens’ Advice Manchester and The Brilliant Club. Since we were founded in 2013 we’ve worked with hundreds of different organisations, including Street League, several branches of Mind, Anthony Nolan, Shelter, Oxfam, local food banks and the Prince’s Trust, to name a few.

5. What are some of your most successful or impactful projects to date? 

A programme we developed for Huddersfield food bank The Welcome Centre to help them triage their clients is now in use every day. They had only one support worker to help hundreds of food bank visitors, and wanted to make sure that those with the most urgent needs were the first to receive additional support

The programme made a huge difference by pointing the staff towards clients who were struggling most, speeding up the signposting process, and greatly reducing the amount of trauma suffered by the more vulnerable people they are helping.

Another was a long-term project with the anti-corruption organisation Global Witness, which helped them to flag anomalous activity that could potentially indicate illegal or corrupt activity.

 Some of the results were fed directly back to Companies House, which has been able to chase up organisations that are breaking the rules, as well as improve the data it collects overall. A number of governments from countries around the world have reached out to Global Witness to solicit advice on how to build effective, beneficial ownership registries.

6. What is DataKind's response to COVID-19?

Covid-19 has had, and will continue to have, a massive impact on the social sector. We are responding to the rapidly changing needs of the sector by:

  • Providing data support to any social change organisation that needs it, and sign-posting them to others when we can’t help;

  • Supporting grantmakers to understand the emergent needs of the sector, in order for them to better support organisations;

  • And working in collaboration with others (as part of The Catalyst) to help newly-digital organisations to provide their normal services remotely, get their teams online, and plan for a digital future. 

Our community is at the centre of what we do, and thanks to our fantastic volunteers we have been able to consistently offer our remote support, and extend this to further ad hoc sessions, for charities that need it.

7. How can you get involved?

Are you a social change organisation that needs support with data or digital?

We welcome any charity or organisation working in the social sector to come to us with their data challenges and project ideas. We’ll help them to show their whole organisation the value of data in improving their impact. Our support (Office Hours session and exploratory DataDive projects) are totally free.

Taking part in a project with us helps charity teams and volunteers alike understand how to use data for social issues, to support the people behind the numbers. Charities can apply here or contact us for more information on

Are you a data expert and want to volunteer your time?

All of our projects are led by volunteer data experts, providing their expertise pro bono. We have a mixture of roles available depending on your skills, experience, and level of time commitment. 

We are a friendly and diverse community, with data do-gooders from all kinds of organisations and backgrounds sharing opportunities, knowledge, and the occasional silly gif. We’d love to support your data journey! Find out more and sign up through our website or contact us for more information on


Twitter: @datakinduk 

ToucanTech is a community database software for charities, schools, and companies to manage their website, fundraising, marketing, development and group activities. It allows you to keep your data in a streamlined, efficient, and affordable database which can positively impact your business. Learn how you can use ToucanTech software to engage your community online by requesting a demo here.

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