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Business, Data, Social Impact

5 Companies Using Data for Social Impact

General Assembly
October 6, 2015
5 Companies Using Data for Social Impact

Can data improve the future of our humanity? You better believe it. “Big data” is more than just big businesses. Every day, social impact groups are finding new and creative ways to act upon the information that they’re generating. They’re using data to surface new information, uncover underserved communities, and track performance over time. Here are 5 very different organizations that are using data, in new and creative ways, to improve the lives of people around them:


Grasswire is an independent media startup that crowdsources the ability to fact-check the news. Described as a “real-time newsroom controlled by everyone,” the platform makes it possible to surface information in critical times of need and bring people closer to the information that they’re reading online. Although a young startup, Grasswire has made it possible for audiences to fact-check information during natural disasters and connect with relevant information in real-time. It’s an important platform for understanding what might be happening during a natural disaster, for instance.


Every day, people die from preventable medical prescription errors. After learning about this trend and the death of a child, entrepreneur Gidi Stein decided to launch MedAware—a platform that uses machine learning technology to analyze and alert prescribers to information that may be inaccurate. Using data, MedAware prevents problems before they have a chance to occur.


Ayasdi’s mission and vision is to use big data to solve complex problems like finding cures to cancer and preventing terrorism. The company is, in essence, a connector that helps partner organizations surface new opportunities that add value. Ayasdi helps facilitate the ‘exploration’ process, which is often the toughest part about working with data.

Social Cops

This big data startup makes data mining easier local, grassroots organizations make more out of limited resources. The company’s network of mobile-enabled human sensors track the most important parameters in the world such as access to healthcare, income & savings, adherence to drugs, and quality of infrastructure from the remotest parts of the world. Through data, Social Cops helps empower grassroots organizations the information that they need to make better decisions.

Operation Clean Sweep

When Buffalo, N.Y. began experiencing a challenging economic climate, the city decided to hold on to its city services. Instead, the mayor and his staff used big data to bring citizens closer together. Beginning as a law enforcement initiative, Operation Clean Sweep connects residents with critical health and human services. During neighborhood visits, corps members also conduct cleanups, seal vacant homes, remove graffiti, and fill potholes. The city uses data to determine which neighborhoods are most in need of services.

The Bottom Line

The reason why these startups are positioned to make a big impact is simple: these teams turn unstructured information into clear stories. That’s why data analysis skills are so important–the ability to interpret information doesn’t just happen. It requires a strong research background, a skill for project managing engineering projects, and a strong desire to bring more value to the world. If you’re a philanthropist at heart, data may be your best tool for making a difference.

Data helps media companies tackle their biggest challenges and explore their biggest opportunities. Media is an area of interest for professionals of almost every background — and it’s one that career changers will feel passionate about pursuing. No matter your interests, you’ll find an opportunity to stay engaged and drive improvements to your employer’s bottom line.

This post is part of our Plot Points content series. See how data affects almost every facet of our culture—from innovation and technology to social impact—and share your own data stories.

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