How Nonprofits Can Use Data to Solve the World’s Problems

By Victor Luckerson

When Uzoamaka Nwankpa visits first-time mothers living in poverty in Tucson, Ariz., she’s more than just a nurse. She’s a therapist, helping a pregnant, recovering heroin user understand how her addiction traces back to her own childhood trauma. She’s a life coach, helping a mom with a two-month-old baby set goals to finish college.

But perhaps most surprisingly, she’s also a data collector, amassing thousands of points of information about the women and children she works with to not only help her clients, but to improve the effectiveness of the nonprofit organization she works with.

In fact, Nurse-Family Partnerships, the national nonprofit that works with local agencies to put nurses like Nwankpa to work, values data above all else. The organization pairs poor, first-time mothers with family nurses that make biweekly home visits from the prenatal period until the baby is two years old. All along the way the nurses are meticulously documenting the development of mother and child, tracking everything from the growth rate of the baby to prior instances of domestic abuse for the mother. In all, the organization tracks 2,000 different variables about each family, gaining an ever-growing knowledge base about the types of women it aims to help.

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