FirstEval-Melissa Kovacs


2016’s Most Notable – My Top Ten (Plus One)

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Looks delicious, but not in my top ten list.
Looks delicious, but not in my top ten list.

‘Tis the time of year for lists – wish lists, to-do lists, favorite-things lists, Top Ten lists, etc.


Here, I offer mine – a list of the 10 (+ 1) most notable things I learned this year, in alphabetical order (for the sake of tidiness!)


Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying: Speak Up! Campaign

Kudos to Cartoon Network for giving bullying pride of place in its corporate social responsibility agenda.  They highlight a push for greater communication between parents and teachers, and friendship.  They even got some attention from superstars. #wespeakup


Civic Education

This year seemed to underscore the purpose of civic education in our schools.  If nothing else, old conversations about what civics classes do right (like talking about being ready to vote), and how civics classes can improve (teach future voters how to engage in respectful dialogue about their differences) got new audiences.


Criminal Justice Reform

More and more people and organizations pushed towards a tipping point on criminal justice reform this year, perhaps evidenced by a decline in the black incarceration rate, reform in how we treat mental illness (less and less from the back of a police car please) and addiction, and changing science and attitudes on the use of solitary confinement.  The biggest news, however, was that the Department of Justice will phase out the use of private prisons.


Do Good Data

Jake Porway looked around one day and thought about all the good work data scientists could do in the social sector with their incredible skills, and founded Datakind.  He, and I, and others, gathered this year in Chicago for the Do Good Data conference, and we’ll meet up again in the spring.  This movement towards using data science in the social sector is growing.  Data – it’s not just for making apps.


Law Firms and Data

The legal field can benefit from the data revolution and tools that exist to push them towards operating in a more data-driven manner.  Much more on that here.


Open Data

Open data gained traction in 2016, especially globally.  A few of my favorite nuggets:  librarians embracing their role as the keepers of open data, the German government committing to more open data, an open hate crime dataset accompanied by a plea for analysis and understanding, and Alteryx and Udacity launching a nanodegree for citizen data scientists – everyone a data analyst!



The American Statistical Association would like us all to enter into a post-P<.05 era.  In other words, let’s not jump straight to looking at p-values or statistical significance to make decisions, but let’s consider effect size and strength, too.  This will surely be a cultural shift if it takes hold – stay tuned…



Challenges in polling our electorate were brought to all of our attention this year, not just the attention of statisticians and pollsters.  I dove into it here.


Tableau 10

Ah Tableau, my favorite interactive data visualization tool!  New this year in their long-awaited upgrade to version 10:  joining of data from disparate sources, clustering, and outlier detection.  Even though data cleaning is not its purpose, Tableau may become my go-to tool for cleaning.


Tempe Town HallTempe Homelessness Town Hall


How great is it that a city hosts a town hall to talk about homelessness?  Superb!  Tempe, AZ did just that this summer.  The audience embraced discussions of homelessness data, along with talks about Tempe’s homelessness outreach team, senior housing, and use of city services.  Attendees discussed their role in solutions in small groups, inspiring us all.


Wild Tonic

OK, so my “+ 1” item has nothing to do with data or the social sector, but this honey-brewed kombucha tea is my favorite discovery this year of an

Arizona company!


A great Arizona company!
A great Arizona company!




Cheers to seeing what 2017 will bring!


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