Supporting Vulnerable Youth More Effectively through Data

By Kathleen Goepferd August 2, 2013

“Sofa Surfing”—such an innocuous-sounding term. It almost sounds fun, doesn’t it?

But to the advisors at Medway Youth Trust (MYT), a registered charity located approximately 35 miles southeast of London, it’s anything but fun. It's a red flag indicating potential homelessness.

Medway Youth Trust is pioneering the use of data visualization to identify vulnerable youth. The charity gathers structured data from various sources including local schools. The charity then combines that structured data with unstructured data. For example, MYT scours text from advisor meeting notes for high-risk marker terms such as “sofa surfing”.

“That's an identifier that we can actually use, and visually display as well in terms of, 'This young person is at particular risk of becoming homeless,' so we can then deploy an advisor to help them” -Gary Seaman, Head of Business Analytics for MYT.

MYT is able to use other software to undertake sophisticated data modeling that allows the charity to rate an individual’s statistical likelihood of future unemployment years before it occurs.
As valuable and powerful as this modeling function is, the resulting output was not easily-understood by the youth advisors.

“It's been a difficult road for non-data people to understand,” says Gary Seaman, Head of Business Analytics for MYT.

Today, MYT is using Tableau to create dashboards that clearly and simply identify those individuals’ need for intervention.

“The beauty of Tableau is that it's so visual that they can actually have ownership of that data... They're actually feeling quite protective now of young people that they look after, and it's—it's almost kind of created a competition within advisors, ”

MYT is not only using Tableau to identify and drive support to those most in need, it also has helped the non-profit show the impact of its efforts, an important consideration when relying on outside funding.

Check out the full story to learn more about how MYT is using Tableau:

.