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This week we hosted our 5th annual Charity Data Dive that saw colleagues across our business put their heads together to help four community partners answer some of their big data questions. 

This is the third data dive I’ve organised with my colleagues Claire Johnson, Nick Shute, Paul Dasan-Cutting, Helena Bayly and the support of the rest of the Plan A team, and it’s really gained popularity over the years. Eighty M&S colleagues from the data community, our Decoded fellows and IT were keen to take part in this year’s event. What’s great about the data dive is it encourages people with unique skill sets and an interest in data analytics to support causes they’re passionate about. 

We’re currently living in a world where technology and data are becoming more and more important. This year we worked with Children in Need, Centrepoint, Street Games and City Year UK, who all have access to a wealth of data but don’t have the expertise and resource to utilise the information available. That’s where the M&S data dive came in.

Twelve weeks ago, we paired data ambassadors to our community partners, providing a mix of technical and project management support so they could prepare for the day. We met with them weekly, cleaning and preparing their data, helping determine the questions they should be asking and advising them on what data they should be collecting for what they wanted to achieve. 

The actual event took place over a day and a half, where the charities pitched to a room full of volunteers, requesting certain skill sets they knew would be useful in forming a team that would get to the bottom of their questions. Our friends at Children in Need wanted data visualisation and mapping skills to explore the evolution of their Youth Services grant portfolio against the backdrop of Youth Service closures in the UK, while Centrepoint needed clustering and association skills to help them take steps towards becoming an insight-led organisation. 

You might think a room full of people sitting in front of screens scanning through spreadsheets of data would be boring, but the energy buzzing around the teams was infectious, and the collaboration between minds was impressive. Our volunteers came together with City Year UK and Street Games to identify incomplete and inaccurate data sets, providing them with recommendations on how to manage their data collection going forward.

These charities are using the skills learned from the data dive to benefit the young people they dedicate their work and energy to everyday. This event was an opportunity for M&S to make a difference through the unique and invaluable skills our people have and add value to organisations supporting the young people we are passionate about helping. We will continue hosting this event in the years to come with the dedicated support of our data-loving colleagues throughout the business. 

Footnote:

The M&S Charity Data Dive ran alongside our colleague Volunteer Week that saw 5,000 colleagues from more than 600 M&S stores across the UK committing over 40,000 hours to projects that work tirelessly to improve the lives of children, young people and families across the UK.