In November 2019, our Toronto chapter hosted its latest speaker series, “Big Data, Big Change.” It inspired over 65 members to leverage data to drive positive social change. We were thrilled to partner with Tim Hortons Foundation Camps, a program that supports kids from disadvantaged circumstances.
Our first speaker, Tamara Augsten from the City of Toronto, showcased an initiative that uses data to drive community development, such as understanding how children are doing at the macro (city) and micro (community) levels. From her analysis and interactive visualization tools, she identified major challenges for children in Toronto, including an opportunity gap where children do not have equitable opportunities to participate in programs outside of school.
Next up, Olga Tsubiks who is the founder of Data For a Cause, demonstrated how her team of volunteers uncovered regions with illegal fishing. For safety and navigation, every large ship in the ocean is legally required to ping out their longitude and latitude along with its country of origin. Using this data gathered by satellites, her volunteers identified ships that followed unique patterns in unexpected regions which can only lead to one conclusion — illegal fishing. With fishing being an industry that some countries heavily rely on for a stable economy, this work raised awareness on the severity and impact of illegal fishing.
Last but not least, Katie Wheatley highlighted the use of data to inform Tim Hortons Foundation Camp, a development program that helps youth build foundational skills and prepare for adulthood. Her group uses longitudinal studies to measure its impact and design program improvements for maximum impact, such as which areas to focus on for volunteer training. The program brings positive change to youth across Canada and the United States.
Inspired by the presentations, many members were eager to participate in the volunteer-based projects. The Toronto chapter is currently organizing hackathon in May 2020, where we strive to connect like-minded data professionals. If you are interested in participating, speaking or sponsoring us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!