Data Clinic Marks its 10 Year Anniversary

Illustration of people on the left under a circle that says 10 years next to text that reads
Two Sigma marks ten years of skills-based service through Data Clinic, their dedicated pro bono data- and tech-for-good initiative.

10 years ago Data Clinic was but a glimmer in the eye and the presentation slides of a spirited group of Two Sigma employees.

Convinced of the potential to address the data and tech capacity gaps in the social impact world through our core skill sets, a group of employees put together a pitch for a data- and tech- version of a legal clinic—a Data Clinic, if you will. It was clear that the mission-driven sector greatly benefited from pro bono legal services; why not also offer similar services for a domain that requires just as much expertise and financial resources to apply responsibly and effectively? The employees were passionate about the idea of giving back, and this seemed like the perfect “Two Sigma” way to do so.

At a yearly competition of innovative ideas for the Two Sigma community back on February 25, 2014, the group won over the audience. The TS community was moved by the thought of using our core skill sets to have a lasting positive impact on mission-driven organizations.

Three men in casual work attire smile at the camera while pointing to a tri-fold poster labeled "Two Sigma Data Clinic" that is covered with graphs and text and has a 1st place blue ribbon on it.
Founding members of Data Clinic celebrate their first place win at Spark Day.

Galvanized by the competition victory and supported with some additional resources, Data Clinic started our pro bono data- and tech-for-good journey. Back then, we were purely volunteer-driven—the group would find potential nonprofit partners through personal connections and teams would tackle projects during Hackdays and free time. Data Clinic’s founders were right, though—the demand for scientifically driven data- and tech- support in the social impact space was boundless, and the demand to volunteer followed suit.

Data Clinic today

Flash forward 10 years later, and we’ve grown from a volunteer-led initiative to a dedicated team backed by an extraordinary volunteer roster and support network of hundreds of employees. Our core team encompasses the technical excellence associated with Two Sigma with a social science grounding, to bridge the gap between our partners and Two Sigma, and to lead valuable and impactful collaborations. And our Two Sigma community of volunteers supply the extraordinary talents of a range of technical expertise and backgrounds, with the uncanny ability to problem-solve and apply methodologies in new domains.

Ever since our first project with DonorsChoose back in 2014, we have taken great care to build close relationships with our partners to ensure we fully incorporate their knowledge base and experience with our data science and engineering expertise to deliver lasting impact. Unlike short-lived consulting partnerships, we truly do form a strong bond with all of our partners and volunteers. These first 10 years have been full of fond memories and budding friendships from our 80+ projects and countless events and interactions with the immensely collaborative social impact and data- and tech-for-good communities across the globe.

Some highlights from our journey thus far:

  • Nurse-Family Partnership  (NFP) provides in-home nursing support for low-income, first-time mothers and their families, yet 60% do not complete the full program. Our partnership developed a system to identify moms at risk of dropping out early, some of whom may benefit from additional outreach. The extraordinary NFP team led an initial user test in the field and gathered insightful feedback. Since then, we have made some minor updates and NFP is preparing for a larger evaluation test. We are incredibly thankful for NFP’s partnership and willingness to include us in these subsequent phases so we can learn about the impact of our work and continue to improve our services.
  • We first released Scout, an open data discoverability tool, back in 2020 during NYC’s Open Data Week. Back then, it focused only on the NYC Open Data Portal, and surfaced datasets that might be of interest to the user based on thematic similarity and joinability. Thanks to a regular flow of user feedback and feature requests, today, Scout connects to over 100,000 global datasets, lets you create a persistent account, shares links to public GitHub repos that utilize the data, and helps you explore the data with a visualization tool. We’re so grateful for the public good community’s generous input, which has allowed us to create a valuable tool that democratizes access to open data.
  • In August 2023 we co-hosted the inaugural Tech for Good Symposium IRL, an intimate gathering of tech-for-good professionals from 30+ for-profit companies and nonprofit changemakers, with Morgan Stanley at their NYC offices. The two-day event involved several panels, fireside chats, and small-group activities aimed at building effective tech-for-good programs, and accelerating learning and impact among cross-sector partnerships. We are very lucky to be in such impressive company in this sector; it’s inspiring to see traditional competitors regularly collaborating and exploring how data and technology can propel the work of mission-driven organizations.
A woman in business attire stands on the left behind a podium labeled Morgan Stanley. To the right, four individuals are seated and engaged in a conversation on a stage while looking at the audience. A screen behind them reveals the title of the session: "Making the Business Case for Tech for Good"
Rachael Weiss Riley (seated, left) speaks on a panel about the business benefits of Tech for Good programs at the Tech for Good Symposium IRL.

If the first decade has been any indicator, the next is going to be extraordinary. We thank each and every one of you who has helped us become who we are today. We look forward to what lies ahead as we all continue our work to equip the social impact sector with the skills, tools, and support they need to make sustainable and meaningful impact with the aid of data and technology.

Read more from Data Clinic

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