MDRC Center for Data Insights: Improving Programs and Systems with Actionable Data Science


Across the social sector, government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations are all benefiting from greater access both to more detailed and frequent data and to a variety of options for increased computing power. With data-science tools and guidance in applying them, practitioners can harness multiple sources of data to gain new insights about the individuals they serve, the contexts in which they operate, their staff members, and their program features. When such tools are incorporated into daily operations in a responsible way, they can help practitioners improve their programs and the lives of those they serve.

With the launch of the MDRC Center for Data Insights, MDRC is furthering its long-standing commitment to helping our partners improve their programs and systems by harnessing the benefits of operational data-science techniques — those that produce actionable insights that can affect daily practice. Ranging from simple descriptive summaries to advanced machine learning algorithms, the center's projects aim to use institutions’ increasingly rich data to provide new insights that can help them refine and target their services.

MDRC has more than 40 years of experience in developing, evaluating, and improving social and education programs, as well as in managing and analyzing vast amounts of data in ways that meet the highest standards of responsibility, security, and privacy. MDRC frequently partners with government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations to help them develop their evidence-building agendas and to understand the challenges and opportunities inherent in adapting programs to changes in contexts and populations.

The MDRC Center for Data Insights provides tools and support services to help institutions better manage caseload dynamics, better understand patterns of behavior, and better target individuals for interventions. In projects that are affiliated with the Center, MDRC staff members meet partnering institutions where they are. We help build an agenda for continuous improvement and provide analytic tools that support a partner's priorities. We assess data systems and suggest strategies for improvements. We explore opportunities for data integration and innovative data-collection methods. And we provide training and assistance in implementing open-source analytical tools and in interpreting and acting on results.

The Center helps government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations that want to use data analytics to improve their practices, organizational cultures, and the structure of their work in a sustainable way, to ultimately lower their costs and improve the outcomes of their clients.

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