Brainstorming Data Challenges with Google Fiber

December 18, 2018

by Lindsey Paydon

One of the main challenges Made in Durham (MID) and its partners face is tracking and evaluating the success of youth participating in work-based learning and education re-engagement programs across the city.

Managing and evaluating individualized data at this scale is always challenging but can be very beneficial for social programs all working toward the same goal. In this case, the goal is to establish an effective education-to-career network to make sure all Durham youth gain meaningful employment by young adulthood.

MID’s vision to connect youth with living wage employment has resonated with employees at Google Fiber who have begun to volunteer their time and money to the cause. They even recently nominated MID for their Annual Employee-Directed Giving Campaign. With this growing partnership, Jacob Dolan, MID’s employer engagement strategist, decided to get them involved in this data challenge. “We wanted to get engaged with their technical expertise and passion while also providing an in-depth look into the work that we do,” Jacob said.

To do this, MID staff, a board and Youth Network member, and representatives from Durham Public Schools (DPS) all gathered for a unique brainstorming event at Google Fiber offices in Durham. The question they sought to answer was, “How can Made in Durham and Durham Public Schools establish a methodology to collect individualized data of students participating in work-based learning?”

Event participants separated into teams to come up with their own solutions and then pitch their ideas to the “judges”  who were DPS Career and Technical Education staff members and an MID Youth Network student. Ideas ranged from developing apps to creating new ways of incentivizing youth through technology. One idea was to “gamify” continued involvement in work-based learning activities through prizes. If a student continued to log their hours, they could be entered into a raffle to receive a Google Home.

Dr. Jessica Sperling from the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) at Duke has been working with MID to enhance evaluation processes. “Sharing data across institutions is always challenging. You have to decide where to house that data, who will manage it, and address privacy and security concerns,” said Dr. Sperling. DPS representatives also provided some valuable insight into the human components of keeping up with data. Often overlooked in data discussions is access to technology, where lack of Wi-Fi, smartphones or laptops can be a challenge for lower-income families or programs with limited resources.

Despite these barriers, MID remains committed in this endeavor. “Having a better handle on data collection provides more opportunity for effective collaboration between organizations all working toward the same goal. It can also make a strong case for need in capacity building,” Rotcelis Jones, Transition Support Specialist, said. With strong, intentionally gathered data, the potential for connecting youth and keeping youth connected in an education-to-career network will increase significantly.

MID is grateful to have such strong partnerships with companies like Google Fiber who are committed to making a difference in their community. With this type of corporate and donor support and continued collaboration with partner organizations, Durham is set to lead the way in inclusive economic growth.





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Made in Durham is a community partnership of educators, business, government, youth-serving nonprofits and young people mobilized around a shared vision that all of Durham’s youth will complete high school and a post-secondary credential and begin a rewarding career by the age of 25.
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