Good with Numbers: The Story Behind the Initiative

Reflecting on Data Clinic’s first small-format workshop to help nonprofits build data strategies and make data more valuable.

The Story Behind Good with Numbers

While we love our close collaborative approach in our partner projects with nonprofits, we recognize that this dedicated attention limits the number of organizations we can reach at any given time.

Just as open sourcing solutions, data products, and tooling have allowed us to scale our impact within the social impact space, we wanted to seek out ways to scale our lessons learned from the last 7+ years of cross-sector partnerships. That said, through all these years of countless project scoping conversations, we’ve found that the questions nonprofits ask rarely have the same answers. Every nonprofit’s context, goals, and available data are unique enough to prompt different considerations and potential solutions.

Rather than adding another virtual webinar to the void of the web that speaks only in vague generalities, we decided to develop a small-format workshop. This workshop would allow us to reach many more nonprofits than we normally can in our typical 1-on–1 scoping conversations, while also facilitating small-group tailored discussions.

Launching Good With Numbers

Our first workshop focused on developing a strong research question for a data-for-good analysis: an inquiry that is specific enough to hopefully be testable given available resources, and that would result in actionable information for the organization.

We were joined by a motivated and engaged group of nonprofits from around the world — including Indonesia! After a brief introduction of our five tips to narrow in on a solid research question, we broke into small group discussions, each led by a Data Clinic staffer, to walk participants through the tips, answer questions, and help everyone adapt the tips to their context.

Data Clinic Good with Numbers

Insights From the First Session

No matter the sector, goal, or data maturity of the organization, one tip got the most exercise: get specific.

It’s hard to limit your goals when considering insights from data analysis. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities, and the more you know, the more your organization can innovate and reach the needs of your community.

The key isn’t to try to cram all the goals into a single question. The key is to cover those goals across a whole long list of specific research questions and then to tackle them one by one in order of your organization’s strategic priorities.

For example, if you wanted to be an Olympic-level triathlete, your ultimate question is likely: How do I become an Olympic-level triathlete? But, how do you even begin to tackle that challenge? You might consider starting by asking: What events are in a triathlon? How do I determine what size bike I need? What are the characteristics of a strong freestyle swimming stroke? What kind of shoes best match my running gait?…

By breaking a larger problem down into smaller components, not only are you providing opportunities to reflect and gauge success along the way, but you’re also increasing the chances that you’ll engage in a more responsible data analysis that depends on a limited set of assumptions, and that will produce more interpretable and actionable insights.

Future Sessions

The first session of Good with Numbers was a success. Our team was able to reach nearly 10x as many nonprofits as we normally would in the same amount of time, providing tailored feedback and tips to fit their contexts. And for those organizations that weren’t necessarily ready to engage on their research questions, they came away with foresight and advice on how to set the stage for an eventual project.

Meeting so many fascinating nonprofits, and seeing our tips have an effect in real time was incredibly inspiring.

Follow our Eventbrite page to be alerted when tickets open for future Good with Numbers sessions. And if you have a data or tech challenge you’d like to explore with us, please reach out at

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