Scottish charity uses data science to measure its impact on improving lives


A Scottish charity that workswith families affected by a range of social issues – including drugs and alcohol – has been able to measure the effect of its counselling ses- sions thanks to data science. Previously, Circle, a charity

working with families to provide tailored support designed to help children deal with social injus- tice, poverty and health inequali- ties, relied on anecdotal evidence to demonstrate the value of its work to improve lives. But now, thanks to a partner-

ship with Te Data Lab, Scot- land’s innovation centre for data science and artificial intelligence (AI), it has been able to demon- strate its overwhelmingly positive impact by using data science to quantify, for the first time, the rate of improvement among each family it worked with. Dr Caterina Constantinescu,

data scientist at Te Data Lab, said: “We know Circle was do- ing fantastic work with families across Edinburgh but due to the nature of the sessions, and highly tailored approach, it was histori- cally difficult for the charity to quantify how much of an impact it was having through data sci- ence – instead relying more heav- ily on anecdotal evidence. “We worked with the team to determine how effective the ses-

As a result of the counselling

sessions, the data showed that on average, each family improved by 0.77 points after every support session, clearly demonstrating the value of the work the charity was undertaking and helping it strengthen its case to secure ad- ditional Government, Trust and Foundation funding. Te figure can now also be

Data scientists have been working with the charity, Circle

sions were for individual families. Moving forward, the charity is now able to analyse sessions in much greater detail, and lever- age data science techniques to inform policies and decisions in the future, providing Circle with key stats to use in future funding applications. It’s a great example of using data as a force for good.” Te charity provides one-to-

one support sessions to individual families affected by drugs and alcohol, imprisonment and other social issues, providing advice and helping them to make and sustain positive lifestyle choices with an end goal of improving the life and prospects of the children within each family. While undeniably having a

positive impact on children and families, Circle had not been able to consistently and uniformly measure the impact of its support

Te Digital Lobbying Register

The following organisations have lobbied Kate Forbes MSP, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, since the end of September.

SCOTLANDIS – the trade body for the tech industry in Scotland – raised its views on the ‘necessary steps for keeping digital talent and businesses in Scotland’, improving patient

capital and addressing the gender imbalance in digital technologies.

THE SCOTTISH COUNCIL FOR VOLUNTARY ORGANISATIONS discussed third sector views on Digital Inclusion and how it impacts on Housing Associations as well as making sure affordable broadband packages are specified in procurement contracts.

NESTA – the innovation foundation – met to discuss how its digital programmes, include the Digital Frontrunners programme, could be beneficial in Scotland.

LLOYDS BANKING GROUP demonstrated its mobile branch and how it provides a wide range of banking services, supported

by satellite technology to provide local WiFi hot-spots and provide real-time cash processing.

THE SCOTTISH COUNCIL FOR DEVELOPMENT AND INDUSTRY met on the development of the Scottish Government’s artificial intelligence (AI) Strategy as announced in the Programme for Government 2019-20.l


sessions, due to extremely high levels of variables affecting one family to the next. It’s partnership with Te Data

Lab enabled a data scientist to work with Circle and lever- age a broad range of indicators measured on a scale of 1-10, such as supporting the reduction of alcohol or substance use, better budgeting to manage household finances and access appropriate housing, limiting activities which could lead to children’s school exclusion, improving parents’ education and employment prospects, increasing parents’ responsiveness to their children’s emotional needs, and many more. Analysing data collected over

time on these indicators then allowed the charity to identify a benchmarking figure from which to estimate improvement across individual families.

used to determine how well individual families respond to the support sessions by compar- ing improvement rates against this benchmark. It’s hoped that the methodology can be applied across more third sector organisa- tions which face similar chal- lenges in quantifying impact due to the nature of their work. Alex Collop, Project Manager

from Circle, said: “Te Data Lab has been instrumental in helping us unlock the potential of data science as a means of measuring our impact. We’ve since used the results from the partnership to start planning more activities, for example, advocating with more confidence to policy makers that the duration of support to families be increased as the data analysis clearly demonstrates that this has a beneficial impact on children’s outcomes. Tis in turn supports Circle to seek future funding and continue to work with and have a positive impact on families across Scotland.” l

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