Social Entrepreneurship Accelerates with Cloud Computing

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By running data science projects in the cloud, social entrepreneurs such as actor Adrian Grenier can tackle poverty and other global problems.

  • Business for Social Good
  • Cloud Data to Improve Lives
  • No More Head-Scratching
  • Recovery from Natural Disasters
  • Building Your Social Entrepreneurship Tool

Business for Social Good

In the HBO show Entourage, Matt Damon has to call in backup from Lebron James to convince Vincent Chase to give more than $10,000 to his children’s charity. In the background is the private plane in which Chase will be flying momentarily to Italy. Essentially, Chase is being shamed into giving more money – relenting and casually telling his assistant to stroke a check for $150,000.

As it turns out, the guy who plays Chase, Adrian Grenier, does not need to be convinced to pay it forward. Alongside his acting, he created the content platform SHFT in 2010, which focuses on movies, cuisine, industrial design, and creative projects that promote environmentalism. In turn, he has been given a new position at Dell as its social good advocate.

It’s a fancy title, but does it mean anything?

The short answer is yes. Through the Dell Legacy of Good program, Grenier will advance “a lot of upcycling and recycling as well as reclaiming of [electronic waste] and implementing it into new products,” he says. Additionally, the actor says he and the computing giant will be “creating some initiatives together that help me achieve  … goals [regarding] ocean work and helping the environment.”

Through this work, Grenier is further building his own legacy as an icon in the social entrepreneurship movement – a field that is tied at the hip with cloud computing, as data science helps to give socially conscientious projects direction.

Cloud Data to Improve Lives

Social issues tend to be extraordinarily complex, and social entrepreneurship is fundamentally concerned with finding solutions to those problems. Just as with an effort to get a competitive advantage and increase revenue, anyone trying to succeed with a social entrepreneurship program must have hard data in order to focus their work.

After all, research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals that companies that are more data-driven are 4% more productive and generate 6% more profit. Notice how those numbers about data are themselves compelling.

“Vague ideas and obscure stories aren’t very persuasive, but facts set in data paint a much clearer picture,” explains When I Work marketing VP Sujan Patel. “This is huge when it comes to determining whether social entrepreneurs will … gain the support they need from others.”

For instance, telling people that you want to end poverty may sound idealistic to the point of absurdity. However, you can ground your efforts in the specific dollar figures that would be required to help the 80% of people who live on less than $10 per day.

No More Head-Scratching

There have been some feel-good stories about using cloud computing and data science to solve real-life problems in recent years. The Google Person Finder, for instance, allows people to locate their loved ones following natural and humanitarian disasters. Similarly, the University of Oxford created a data analytics tool to predict the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

Still, most of the focus of data science has been on increasing business, and nonprofits often haven’t known what to do with the data they have.

Jake Porway wanted to make it easier for public-sector organizations to process data and data scientists to engage in social entrepreneurship, so he created DataKind.

“The company’s goal is the visualization and understanding of a social organization’s data, through the lens of a data science expert,” says Patel. Beyond analytics, the organization teaches socially minded groups “how to build good data sources, as well as assisting them with quality data discovery.”

Recovery from Natural Disasters

The Google Person Finder isn’t the only mechanism created to respond to natural disasters. The Qatar Computing Research Institute now has 10 projects running with its Social Innovation Program, showing the world how building data science initiatives on public cloud machines can fuel social entrepreneurship and help real people navigate life-threatening crises.

Like the above efforts, it’s proving that data can actually be extraordinarily useful in improving quality of life and even saving lives.

Building Your Social Entrepreneurship Tool

Social entrepreneurship sounds like a great way to get any company a lot of press, but Grenier insists that’s not what it’s about. Rather, socially responsible projects are built into the fabric of the company. That way, “[w]hen you sit down with your shareholders and you say you spent a lot of money to do this really great thing, you don’t need to show them that it directly affects the bottom line positively,” the actor says. “They just accept it as part of who you are.”

Do you want to build social entrepreneurship into your own organization’s DNA? A powerful cloud computing virtual machine is essential to creating data science projections. Ours are PassMark-rated to typically achieve 300% better performance than SoftLayer or Amazon VMs with similar specs.

By Kent Roberts

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