Working with data for good: give it a crack

Learn & Optimise

At Our Community, we want to help connect data practitioners and not-for-profit organisations. One of the ways we’re doing this is by profiling data scientists who’ve used their skills within the social sector, so that others like them might be encouraged to do the same.

Áine Phelan is a data scientist who has built a successful career in the financial services sector, currently working at Australian fintech company Afterpay. Áine was awarded the individual prize for her standout participation in the Datathon for Social Good in 2020.

Áine studied computer science and French as an undergraduate before completing a Masters in Translation at Dublin City University. What was supposed to be a one-year working holiday 14 years ago has since led to a successful career as a data scientist in Australia. Áine found out about the Datathon for Social Good through the female-led social enterprise She Loves Data, and travelled from Sydney to Melbourne to participate.

Aine phelan
Áine Phelan was awarded the best individual prize at the Datathon for Social Good.

The datathon was a partnership between Our Community’s Innovation Lab and Community Hubs Australia (CHA), a not-for-profit organisation that connects migrant women with their communities through hubs located at schools. Datathon participants were asked to explore CHA’s data to identify what was “typical” for a hub and what could be learned by analysing hub activity.

Áine and her team conducted exploratory data analysis to identify what makes a typical hub and establish measures of success. The team built a model to predict a hub's future performance based on past activity. You can read a report which details their key findings here.

Áine said that for her, it was the “very human” aspect of working with a not-for-profit organisation like CHA that was the main drawcard of the datathon.

“You can take your skills and apply them to something that has a tangible real world social impact,” she said.

“It’s like pulling a thread. The more you learn, the more invested you become.”

But she suggested no sector should be off the table for data scientists and analysts who are looking to find fulfilment in line with their personal values and interests.

“Data science is endlessly applicable to the world around you. If you have these skills and this way of thinking you should be able to apply it to anything that’s of interest to you.”

“There are always hackathons and other events going on. It’s a really good learning experience, something you can add to your CV. I would say just give it a crack.”

MORE INFO: Datathon for Social Good | Our Community Innovation Lab | Our Community House | You Say Data, I Say Data – DFSG2020 project summary | Community Hubs Australia

The Our Community Innovation Lab Datathon for Social Good was held at Our Community House, “where data science and creativity come together to catalyse positive social change”. Visit the Our Community House website for more information.

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