Four Ways We're Creating a "Culture of Data" with our 2019 Data Champions

November 12, 2019

Data is not a foreign object. Data is just part of what you do. It's part of the day-to-day fabric of an organization.”

These are the words of Christopher Gorder, CEO of an esteemed non-profit known as charity: water. His views around data as the “day to day fabric” represent a broader shift underway across the non-profit community; the idea that non-profits should think of data as a core piece of their organizational culture rather than simply numbers referenced in reports for funders.

This concept has been gaining momentum for years. Attend any conference for non-profit professionals and there’s a good chance you’ll hear someone speaking about their organization’s journey to establishing a “culture of data”. It sounds beneficial in theory, but what does it actually mean to have a culture of data and how does an organization go about establishing one?

As a network of non-profit organizations operating a shared program model involving foodservice job training and social enterprise, Catalyst Kitchens was uniquely positioned to find out. We launched our Data Champions fellowship in July 2019 to support a select group of member organizations to establish a data-driven culture. Our first Data Champions cohort is made up of Outcomes and Database Specialists, Chief Impact Officers, Grant Coordinators, and other non-profit professionals interested in representing organizational data in new ways.


Our Catalyst Kitchens Data Champions fellowship set out to achieve the following goals:

1. Identify and connect individuals within the network who work closely with data.

The capacity for a data-focused team if often limited at non-profit organizations. Many of our Data Champions don’t have regular opportunities to connect with colleagues about database questions or explore solutions., Catalyst Kitchens hopes to help drive those important conversations forward by bringing together this group of like-minded data professionals.


2. Increase proficiency with data analysis across participating organizations.

With the Tableau Foundation’s support and generosity, each participating organization receives Tableau Desktop software licenses and access to hands-on training to increase technical proficiency. In October 2019, we convened the first Data Champions cohort in Austin, TX for two and a half days of training and group work around building shared data resources for the Catalyst Kitchens network.

3. Build shared resources around prioritized topics.

We knew that bringing together this group would generate bold new ideas around data for Catalyst Kitchens foodservice job training programs. We enlisted the Data Champions cohort to create tools and resources that we can share out with the broader CK network. We’re currently focused on developing resources around defining successful outcomes for job training and establishing a guidebook of best practices for how organizations collect and store data, also known as “data architecture”.


4. Establish an on-going community of practice, or Data Advisory Council.

Finally, we recognize that the Catalyst Kitchens network would benefit from a more formalized and continuous effort to convene data experts around these topics through our current Data Champions cohort. We’re excited to share that in 2020, many members of the current cohort will join our Data Advisory Council and join on-going conversations around data management practices across the network.


Apply to the 2020 Data Champions Fellowship

Interested in seeing your organization participate in this new initiative? Apply for the next Data Champions Cohort! The Winter 2020 application round opens November 13th, 2019 with a deadline to apply by Wednesday, December 18th. Submit your applications before heading out for the holiday season!

Click here for details about the 2020 Data Champions cohort and how to apply

Emily Olsen-Harbich

Emily is interested in challenging traditional community development norms to solve complex social issues at scale. She's worked at the grassroots level as a community extension agent in Peace Corps Cameroon and managed cross-sector initiatives while working in management consulting for a Washington, DC based firm. Emily's experience creating compelling communications tools, including an award winning documentary film, help her to support and enhance the inspiring work of Catalyst Kitchens More