Our Founder and CEO, Cindy Eby, recently traveled to Chicago to attend and present at the Good Tech Fest Conference (more about Cindy’s presentation to come!). Organized by Data Analysts for Social Good, the conference focuses on technology but what brings everyone together is a passion for creating change. Good Tech Fest is a place for the data nerds, technologists, leaders, doers, and analysts; people who are passionate about social change and use technology and social change to achieve it.

This year’s conference was packed with thought-provoking presentations and calls for action, from using data trusts to drive evidence-based policy and programming to staying true to human-centered design principles by backing interventions designed by the community, for the community.

Good Tech Fest left us thinking deeply about data and voice: community voice, loud voice, silent voice, and underrepresented voice.

Community voice is data

In fact, it is indispensable data and sits at the heart of human-centered design, whether for tech or for services. We were inspired by Good Call, a tech nonprofit that designed a free 24/7 legal support service for residents of New York City who face arrest. The idea for the program emerged entirely from community input about their greatest needs. In a world where the sector is at its best, we’re all like Good Call.

The loudest voices belong to the usual suspects

They drive the discourse, and they have deep experience and observations to share. The loudest voices in our field tend to be Caucasian (like much of the ResultsLab team), middle to higher income, and well-educated.  During the conference, Brian Komar, VP Global Impact at Salesforce.org, challenged the sector to think differently during his unveiling of the Impacting Responsibly report, funded by Salesforce.org. “The impact measurement movement presents a unique opportunity to reimagine how to address long-standing sector challenges including diversity and inclusion, beneficiary feedback, onerous reporting, and transparency and accountability,” said Komar. We wholeheartedly agree with this challenge to the sector and stand behind it. Yet, we were somewhat dismayed to learn the report’s contributors were picked from a pool of the loudest voices.

Data can add volume to a silent voice

Benefits Data Trust shared their innovative and effective approach to using data and technology to ensure every person can meet their basic needs. BDT harnesses benefits data to target individuals who need support but struggle to access much-needed benefits. The organization also leverages the data to drive policy and human-centered process improvements alongside government partners. BDT preserves individual dignity, brings the human back into the human services ecosystem, and gives them voice. Benefits Data Trust is an exemplar of data-driven, human-centered design to programming and systems change.

Final Thoughts

Good Tech Fest satiated our need to learn more about what technology and tools are currently out there, and how others are using data and tech to better serve our communities. It also surfaced things that persistently nag at us in our own work: How can we better use data to promote power sharing and develop better solutions to our most pressing problems?

Learn more about Good Tech Fest’s annual conference here.