Quantifying Impact for Good

by Stefan Heeke

Silicon Alley is experiencing a regenesis. Homegrown startups are flourishing, and many New York City technology companies have recently experienced well-deserved financial and creative success.

But when CEO Dane Atkinson co-founded SumAll.com he decided that building a tech startup should be about more than just money. A great startup is also about creating a positive workplace that generates tangible societal impact. So with the founding of SumAll, the team decided to set aside a full 10% of the company’s equity to create a foundation with the goal of translating the company’s mission to the world of nonprofits. The SumAll Foundation then raised an additional $500,000 and set out to make data analytics accessible to a broad range of non-commercial organizations.

The promise of the SumAll’s analytics platform is that any company, in particular smaller businesses, should be able to leverage big, connected data to become more numbers-driven and effective. The SumAll Foundation extends SumAll.com’s mission beyond the enterprise to create data-driven impact on important issues. The SumAll Foundation uses proven tactics and techniques of data analysis, design, and journalism to better understand big issues, and to help organizations understand the challenges of big data.

 The SumAll.org team embarked on a journey to quantify a range of yet unquantified or under-analyzed issues. Our general focus has been on human rights issues. Our initial projects have brought us into the world of human trafficking, child pornography, homelessness, democracy, and prescription drug abuse. We work closely with organizations that have topical expertise to determine an issue’s key performance indicators. We then dive deeply into datasets to create statistical models, interactive visualizations and tell the story behind the numbers.

One great example of our approach is our work on the issue of prescription drug abuse. We’ve formed a partnership with the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI), a part of The Clinton Foundation, to analyze the spread of prescription drug abuse. In an attempt to deeply understand the nature of prescription drug abuse, our two organizations regularly collaborate and share information.  

In keeping with our theme of human rights, The SumAll Foundation also dove deep into the data of the darkest corner of the Internet: child pornography. Our report used search and other big data buckets to better understand the users and impact of the Internet on the spread of child pornography.

The next few months will present a number of exciting and interesting projects and partners for The SumAll Foundation. We’re currently analyzing and creating visualizations. For example, Twitter hashtag data around the demonstrations in Turkey. With this project, our goal is to remove language barriers and layers of propaganda, and provide a simple and intuitive map of the protest conversation.

The SumAll Foundation’s goal is to change the world. We are grateful for the vision and opportunity provided by SumAll.com to work on fascinating issues sans commercial restriction. Our awesome team is working hard to bring data analytics to more issues and hopefully make a big and measurable impact over time. I consider it a privilege to be part of this organization.