Can Non-profits Use Big Data To Change the World?

Running a non-profit organization is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding ways to give back to the community, and in some cases, broader global society.


Running a non-profit organization is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding ways to give back to the community, and in some cases, broader global society.

Apart from big issues such as a shortage of funds, legislative barriers, and a lack of empathy, one of the problems facing organizations is a general lack of resources.

But the arrival of big data might change all of that. So, can non-profits use big data to change the world?

Identifying patterns

Big data has changed the way we work, and there’s no reason it cannot be applied to addressing social issues that plague the planet.

One of the reasons why big data is such a powerful resource is the ability to use information to identify patterns which can be used to forecast problems before they arise.

A prime example would be a hypothetical organization trying to keep children in troubled neighborhoods off the streets and away from gangs.

By analyzing the background of current gang members, such as age, home address, school, and social media consumption habits, organizations could identify at-risk children and help them before it’s too late.

Organizations pushing for more organic produce on school menus could monitor the health of children in an area and link their well-being to the food they eat.

The applications and predictive powers of big data are almost endless – making it a powerful tool for social change.

Generating support

Non-profits exist to fight for a cause.

As mentioned, one of the biggest issues that these organizations face is the constant battle for financial support.

Another way that non-profit organizations could use big data to change the world is to create more compelling arguments for their respective causes.

It’s one thing to say that a situation is dire – it’s quite another to back this kind of statement with data that support your opinions.

People are far more likely to support a cause when they understand the depth of the problem, and data is an ally in bringing people to that realization.

Added confidence

Many people who discuss “contentious” issues are met with uninformed, dismissive arguments.

The people who volunteer on behalf of non-profits face the same challenge across the globe – people who do not have the facts are unlikely to care enough to become a part of the solution.

Big data is a great way to empower volunteers with added confidence. In the past, they were making impassioned pleas with little or no backing. Now, thanks to big data, they can present their arguments secure in the knowledge that they have the tools they need to fuly tell the truth.

Shared humanity

The success or failure of most non-profit efforts is built on whether the audience recognizes the humanity of the people or things that are afflicted.

You are far more likely to donate to a cause if you have gone through a similar problem, or can identify with the issues being faced by something or somebody else.

Big data can highlight our shared humanity. Numbers don’t lie, and there are certain issues that all of us must face. From obesity to HIV and cancer, there are social problems and worries that do not keep borders.

Data can drum up international support, but there is also tremendous value in using global information to create solutions. The more data you can access, the more profound the solution you can create.

Because we all live in a connected world, we suffer the same problems – and that means we can work together to create solutions.

Embracing progress

Although big data is becoming more affordable, the sad reality is that information is still expensive. It’s probably going to be a while before organizations can afford to get the insights and information they’re looking for.

Having said that, as people become more connected, they can access more data for themselves, becoming more socially-aware and responsible in the process.

It is up to all of us to share resources and spread information.

Big data does have the power to change the world – if it is given to the people, organizations and non-profit groups who will use it to drive long-lasting change across the globe.

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