A Scottish charity, Circle, has made “significant progress” in utilising data and demonstrating impact through a partnership with The Data Lab, Scotland’s Innovation Centre for data and artificial intelligence.
Circle works with families to provide support on a range of issues spanning drug or alcohol abuse and imprisonment and helps children deal with social injustice, poverty and health inequalities.
Through The Data Lab partnership, the charity has used data science to quantify the rate of improvement among each family it works with for the first time.
The charity has previously been unable to consistently and uniformly measure the impact of its support sessions with families across Scotland. This is largely due to the extremely high levels of variables which affect families on an individual basis.
Its partnership with the Innovation Centre enabled a data scientists to work with Circle and leverage a wide range of indicators measured on a scale of 1-10, such as supporting the reduction of alcohol, better budgeting to manage household finances and access appropriate housing. Additionally, the initiative helped limit activities which could lead to children’s exclusion from school or improve parents’ education and employment prospects.
By analysing data collected on these indicators, the charity was then able to identify a “benchmarking figure”, from which it could estimate improve across individual families.
Dr Caterina Constantinescu, data scientist at The Data Lab, explained: “We know Circle was doing fantastic work with families across Edinburgh but due to the nature of the sessions, and highly tailored approach, it was historically difficult for the charity to quantify how much of an impact it was having through data science – instead relying more heavily on anecdotal evidence.
“We worked with the team to determine how effective the sessions were for individual families. Moving forward, the charity is now able to analyse sessions in much greater detail, and leverage data science techniques to inform policies and decisions in the future, providing Circle with key stats to use in future funding applications. It’s a great example of using data as a force for good.”
Data showed that on average each family improved after each individual support session, which Circle said clearly demonstrates the value of the work it carries out and helps to strengthen its case to secure additional government, trust and foundation funding.
Long-term, it is hoped that a similar methodology can be applied across more third sector organisations, many of which face similar challenges in quantifying impact due to the nature of their work.
Alex Collop, project manager at Circle, said: “The Data Lab has been instrumental in helping us unlock the potential of data science as a means of measuring our impact. We’ve since used the results from the partnership to start planning more activities, for example, advocating with more confidence to policymakers that the duration of support to families be increased as the data analysis clearly demonstrates that this has a beneficial impact on children’s outcomes.
“This, in turn, supports Circle to seek future funding and continue to work with and have a positive impact on families across Scotland.”