Recently Adam and I drove the 38kms from Sydney CBD to Mt Druitt in Western Sydney for our first Data Day with Dani Roderick and her team, Ben, Sarah and Jaime, at The Hive.
The Hive is aptly named. There’s warmth and intensity, and a buzz of activity characteristic of a group of focused, industrious people getting on with the work. The work is not easy; one in three children start school developmentally vulnerable in Mt Druitt, which is among some of the lowest results for a community in Australia. The Hive is working on ideas to ensure all children start school well.
Most of us have a sense of Mount Druitt. It was established in the late 60s as a public housing community. However, social housing no longer provides a broad safety net and has increasingly become a necessity for people on extremely low incomes. Additionally, the majority of Mt Druitt’s suburbs provide the ‘cheapest’ rentals in a city with rising housing costs. Consequently there is a large concentrations of people with lower incomes that have not risen anywhere near the rate of cost of living. The Hive team use data as an “strategic enabler” to understand how the stories community are telling us are seen, or not, in the data. This includes crime, family stress and school achievement.
“The work is not easy; one in three children start school developmentally vulnerable in Mt Druitt, which is among some of the lowest results for a community in Australia.”
Dani explained the problem at a recent event we hosted at muru-D: “We eventually started working around preschool and we had to get a lot of anecdotaldata. We had a little bit of data that we could get, but we had a lot of challenges due to the way the data is collected and administered. I remember being on a call to ‘Canberra’ and being told there was “no appetite for the data to be released.” Having the data available for analysis upfront would reduce significantwaiting time and help make informed choices about interventions.
At our Data Day with the team, I recognise a look of apprehension. Like many people we support in communities, everyone is highly skilled at working with people and families. They want to use data more effectively, yet in excel it’s a big worry and a headache.
We start by plotting everyone on the Data Nerd “x axis”. We have one Nerd, two Wannabe Nerds and one who is Scared of Data. Understandably so, because if we are all honest, data is excruciatingly hard to do well when you’re working on multiple spread sheets.
Using Seer’s Data Platform, we quickly build up a picture for Mt Druitt and suburbs like Wilmont. We look at AEDC trends and crime statistics. There’s been a spike in transport related offenses in the last two years, in fact, a threefold increase of that type of crime.
“We had pushed the extremes of our skills in Excel. I thought I was better than the average person, but we are no longer able to Google our way out of our problem. That is why we were so excited when the opportunity came up to work with Seer.”
By the end of our Data Day, we have shared tears (oh my goodness, this is going to save me so much time…), laughs (that’s so funny you actually think data is cool and, by the way, how else can we use the word “Hyperplane”, Adam?) and amazement (look at that transport crime trend, I had a gut feel but I didn’t know it for sure and now we can talk to people about the impact).
Yatzee! We’ve converted everyone to Data Evangelists, not that it was hard. Everyone was willing, and just needed an easier way. Why is that? I think it’s because data is just so surprisingly useful to the critical nature of community building.
What’s next? We discovered a terrific problem we can solve with analytics: the Supply and Demand of Quality Childcare. Adam’s working on this machine learning model now and will have it available next week. The team and stakeholders have been discussing for nearly 2 years whether there is ‘enough’ places in the area for 100% of 4 year olds to attend a Preschool and 80% of 3 years olds. The team are keen to see the results so that we can start discussing the findings with local stakeholders, leaders and change makers.
We’ll send an update soon on this. The supply and demand of quality childcare is a brilliant example of a model that can be applied across all communities.
“We had pushed the extremes of our skills in Excel. I thought I was better than the average person, but we are no longer able to Google our way out of our problem. That is why we were so excited when the opportunity came up to work with Seer.”Dani, what a great moment in time it is for all of us working to create a better world. Our goal is to give the team in Mt Druitt and every community better analytics for continuous learning. No story without data, no data without story. Lets hustle, people!
p.s. I want to say a big thank you to our wonderful partners at Opportunity Child (who support The Hive) and our customer Lisa McKenzie from the Greater Sheppaton Lighthouse Project for introducing us to Dani and her team.
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