Jim Fruchterman’s Op-Ed: Data and the Human Touch

By Benetech, posted on

In Reuters, Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman advocates for a human-centered approach to data in the social sector. This article was published ahead of the 2014 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, where Jim will be discussing the impacts of “datafication”— the notion that aspects of the world can be rendered into a data format and put to social or policy use.

In the article, Jim notes: “Data without context has little value. We ask the question: data for whom? We’re a technology company and strongly believe in the power of information as a force for good. But we’re also a nonprofit with a social mission to empower individuals in complex and often difficult circumstances. Which is why we also argue that it’s dangerous to base decision-making and practical work concerning human growth and development purely on data-driven insights.”

Ultimately, Jim argues that applying a human-centered approach to data in the social sector means keeping focus on your mission and knowing your beneficiaries. In the case of Benetech, these beneficiaries are front-line human rights defenders in repressive communities, students with disabilities, and environmental activists, whom we treat as customers, not recipients of easily quantifiable social good units. “Even in a world of big data,” he concludes, “creativity and intuition still require the human touch.”

You can read Jim’s op-ed on Reuters’ website. It is published in partnership with the Skoll World Forum.