Reflections from The Classy Awards!

HyeSook Chung speaking at the CLASSY Awards


I just had the time of my life!

I spent the weekend in sunny San Diego at The CLASSY Awards. The yearlong initiative identifies social impact using a comprehensive application and evaluation process, culminating in a weekend-long celebration that attracts the top leaders of the social sector. Social innovators they call the greatest champions of social progress! Hard to believe I was among this elite group of social innovators.

Even before attending the weekend celebration I was sold on the whole idea of The CLASSY Awards! They truly believe that bold solutions are needed to address new and existing challenges.

Check out their "characteristics" of CLASSY Awards Nominees:

  • CLASSY Awards nominees strive for monumental change, not incremental improvements. [DC children deserve this!]
  • They are big thinkers and bold leaders.
  • They understand the complexities and changing dynamics of our most significant social challenges.
  • They are problem solvers, introducing creative new solutions and technologies. [DC KIDS COUNT is innovative!]
  • They are goal-oriented. They leverage best practices and research to guide their strategies. 
  • They are data-driven and metrics-focused. They take risks, embrace failure, and have built a culture of learning throughout their organization. [We embrace challenges!]
  • Above all, CLASSY Awards nominees are the most significant catalysts for social progress.

To top off this incredible recognition that the small but mighty team of DC Action received, I was asked to provide a TEDx style presentation as a Game Changer for our DC KIDS COUNT maps! I’ve been called a lot of things but Game Changer hasn’t been one of them.

 HyeSook Chung speaking at the CLASSY Awards

In case others were interested in my reflections why the DC KIDS COUNT work is so critically important and a GAME CHANGER in DC…..

The process was extremely innovative and risky. We partnered with a Brooklyn-based start-up connecting us to entrepreneurial data scientists who wanted to work with socially innovative non-profits like ours. I had this hunch – we could do more with the DC KIDS COUNT brand and go beyond simply providing data-analysis but to actually invest in data manipulation and analysis to make positive outcomes for DC children.

The simple but powerful theory is that if big companies like Google, Amazon and Netflix recognize the importance of dedicated data science teams and can support full-time analysts, then nonprofits like ours should have similar opportunities. We have just as interesting datasets (if not more important datasets), but too often do not have the resources to capitalize on them.

D.C. has a lot of informative datasets that tell a sobering and interesting story. Our city has just over 100,000 children under 18. Nearly one in three children under age five lives below the federal poverty line – the rate in Wards 7 and 8 is nearly half. Despite the efforts of many well-intentioned direct service and advocacy groups, we have not seen dramatic improvements in outcomes for children in nearly two decades. Part of the problem is that our city has lacked reliable data or a shared understanding to address the complex challenges facing children and families in a concerted and sustainable way. The city has prioritized quick fixes over long-term, systemic and sustainable change.

The product is truly innovative! The neighborhood maps we created showed that the success of too many DC children is predetermined by their ZIP Code – and limited access to critical resources to thrive. Some DC neighborhoods have assets that enrich the lives of children, but others are characterized by high levels of poverty and the many challenges that come with it, including poorer performing schools, more violent crime and less access to resources like healthy food, libraries, parks and recreation centers.

Our assumption is that data ensures informed decisions and ultimately positive outcomes for children! Our maps allow the user to navigate through different layers and information as they wish based on their interest. They are equipped to do their own analysis.

Through our DC KIDS COUNT work, DC Action makes data on health, education, safety, family structure and income support clear and accessible to everyone. Ultimately, we hope that our research and advocacy will serve as a barometer of our collective success and a catalyst for focusing on needed changes to improve child outcomes.

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