/ How a UN volunteer is using data to inform Covid policies

Today, business is about more than just making products or money. It’s about making a difference. 

Domo certainly subscribes to the idea of helping to make the world a better place. Proof is in the various initiatives it has launched or supported in recent years, including the ParityPledge and Domo for Good (D4G), to name just a couple.

While the former program has been in the spotlight of late, the latter, which was designed in 2019 to allow Domo customers to match themselves with nonprofit organizations wanting to better leverage data, is shining in its own right.

A great example can be found in New York, where the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) is benefiting from D4G in a big way. 

Shadman Islam is one of those volunteers, and last week I talked to him about what the program has enabled his team to do in aid of the United Nations’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Thanks for joining me today, Shadman. How and why did you become involved with the UNV?

A: The first thing that happened was I came across the United Nations website, where I discovered that the UN has a program that allows people anywhere in the world to volunteer on different UN tasks. This was at the end of March, which is when everyone was really trying to wrap their head around the virus.

One of the things the UNDP was looking for was someone who could build a COVID-19 dashboard. Seeing as I have that kind of expertise—my full-time job is as business intelligence manager for L’Oreal—I thought I should apply for the position. So, I did. 

Q: What compelled you to apply, other than the fact it was something you knew you could do?

A: I always wanted to do something or be part of something that would allow me to marry work and things that I’m passionate about. And one of the major things I’m passionate about is giving back, trying to help the community in any way possible, be it financially, with time, or with skills. This was a great opportunity for me because it coincided with something that I do on a day-to-day basis.

Q: How and when did Domo enter the picture? Was that something that you brought to the equation?

A: Around the end of May, it became clear that the high-profile, data visualization tool we were using just wasn’t the right solution. With the connectors that were available, it was hard to ensure that automated updates worked. And it wasn’t user-friendly.

So, I decided to look into Domo, and while I knew it had the capability to create the dashboards we needed, I wasn’t sure if it would allow us to publish into a public environment. So, I sent an email to Domo support, and because L’Oreal is a Domo customer, I got a response right away saying, “Yes, you can use Domo for that. And, oh, by the way, since this would be for nonprofit work, you should submit this project through Domo for Good. That way, you can get a free instance from us, and use the data that’s available through our COVID-19 Tracker.”

That was the breakthrough moment. Within a week, our instance was created, and soon after that, we were given unlimited editor access. So, now everybody on our team at UN Volunteers can go in and do data transformations and create visualizations.

Q: How has having these capabilities helped push your work for the UNV and, in turn, the UNDP forward? 

A: It basically tells a story, right? All this visualization and all of this data is helping them tell a story to the policy makers that they work with about the level of vulnerability that exists in developing nations. Without the data, it’s not easy for them to tell a story. But now they have a picture they can show. Now their claims are much stronger. Now they can better educate the policy makers on some of the risk factors associated with COVID-19 and how it could impact different demographics.

Q: That’s awesome. How much time are you putting into it volunteering? Has it changed at all since you started?

A: Yeah, when all of this started, I was putting in three to four hours per week. But then, once Domo was introduced as the platform, my work got cut down—mainly because Domo just does so much of the work. It helps business users create visualizations and people with limited technical knowledge create data flows or magic ETL. It’s very easy to do data transformations and things like that in Domo. It’s a very easy tool to work with.

Also around that time, the team grew. When I joined in March, I was one of the first volunteers on the project. Now there are 10. So, now I’m contributing about two hours per week, which mainly consists of attending meetings and being more of a consultant on issues.

Q: What have you learned from all of this by being involved in this program?

A: What I’ve learned is that there are a lot more people out there who are willing to do good for the human race. We just have to act on it. Once we start acting on good intentions, we are only a few steps away from getting connected to other people that are willing to help, and that’s when great things can happen at scale.

To learn more about Domo for Good, including how it works, how to submit a project, and what projects are open, click here.

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