Data Culture Project + Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts — a Case Study

Rahul Bhargava
3 min readApr 9, 2018

The Data Culture Project is a hands-on learning program to kickstart a data culture within your organization. This case study features one nonprofit organization’s experience using this program to build a data culture. Read more real stories on our website.

For nearly a century, the Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts has provided economic education and financial literacy programs to youth living in Western Massachusetts and Vermont. JAWM programs aim to provide students with business and economic education at no expense to schools and community organizations. JAWM is able to provide its services through the support of hundreds of local business, individuals, and foundations.

At JAWM, data is important for understanding how students are benefitting from JAWM’s financial literacy programs. JAWM tracks student progress by testing student’s knowledge of financial literacy, career readiness, understanding of math/ writing, and knowledge entrepreneurship at the beginning and end of the program. JAWM additionally conducts teacher and volunteer evaluations based on student’s views of the training to determine the quality of any given program. Leveraging this data, JAWM has developed a robust set of educational programs for students.

Despite its strong data-driven culture, JAWM believed it could further improve how it approached analyzing organizational data. JAWM utilized the Data Culture Project (DCP) educational videos and group activities to introduce participants to a wide range of data analytic tools. Jennifer Connolly, President of JAWM, found that the program’s information worked at all levels regardless of a person’s background in data or analytics.

“The DCP program helped us look at data in a different way, especially through WordCounter, which visualizes text into word clouds. Instead of teaching us to just spout statistics, this workshop gave us the opportunity to tell our story in a new and visual way. The program was accessible to people of all levels regardless of their background and initial comfort with data analysis. Our staff members are now able to use data more effectively whether that be for social media or for grant reports.”

By inviting people from the community into the workshop, JAWM helped validate The Data Culture Project’s central belief that with the right tools, anyone can learn to work with data in fun and interesting ways.

We are grateful to the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Societyfor supporting the development of the Data Culture Project. The Data Culture Project is headed by Rahul Bhargava and Catherine D’Ignazio, undertaken as a collaboration between the MIT Center for Civic Mediaand the Engagement Lab@Emerson College, and with the assistance of Becky Michelson (project manager), Jon Elbaz & Constance Yee (research assistants).



Rahul Bhargava

Assistant Professor, Journalism & Art + Design, Northeastern University