Charity demonstrates impact of data science

Circle charity 1 (1)

Circle: Data could be used to unlock future funding. 

The Data Lab has helped Circle measure the effectiveness of its family support sessions. 

6th November 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Data scientists are helping a Scottish charity measure the impact it has on families dealing with poverty and inequality.

Circle works with families across the country, providing one-to-one support sessions and helping them to make and sustain positive lifestyle choices.

Now, thanks to a partnership with specialists from The Data Lab, the charity has been able to consistently and uniformly measure the impact of these sessions.

Circle bosses say the data gathered can now be used to advocate their services to policy makers, potentially allowing the charity to unlock additional funding.

The partnership saw a Data Lab scientist work with Circle to create a range of indicators, measured on a scale of 1-10, which could be used to quantify the impact of the charity’s services on families.

These include supporting the reduction of alcohol or substance use, better budgeting to manage household finances and access appropriate housing, limiting activities which could lead to children’s school exclusion, improving parents’ education and employment prospects, increasing parents’ responsiveness to their children’s emotional needs, and many more.

Analysing data then allowed the charity to identify a benchmarking figure from which to estimate improvement across individual families.

As a result of the counselling sessions, the data showed that on average, each family improved by 0.77 points after every support session, clearly demonstrating the value of the work the charity was undertaking. 

The figure can also be used to determine how well individual families respond to the support sessions by comparing improvement rates against this benchmark. It is hoped that this methodology can be applied across more third sector organisations which face similar challenges in quantifying impact.

Dr Caterina Constantinescu, data scientist at The Data Lab, said: “We know Circle was doing fantastic work with families across Edinburgh but due to the nature of the sessions, and a 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.

“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.” 

Alex Collop, Circle project manager, added: “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 policy makers 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.”