Scopeathon for Social Good

April 1 – 2, 2022

The Data Science and Public Policy Lab, with the Block Center for Technology and Society and Metro21: Smart Cities Institute, is hosting a Scopeathon for Social Good at Carnegie Mellon University. The Scopeathon is a day-long training event where students and partners from government and nonprofit organizations will collaborate and learn how to scope a data science/AI/ML project for social impact. Unlike a typical “hackathon”, where you might hack away at an ill-defined problem, the focus here is to give participants hands-on experience with the most important part of a social impact project: understanding the problem, determining goals and tradeoffs, identifying actions that can be taken, reviewing the data available, and planning out an analysis, while taking into account relevant ethical issues. The goal is to create an actionable scope that will make the following coding and analysis have its intended impact.

This year’s Scopeathon is partnering with the StudentSect leg of the annual INTERSECT@CMU conference, titled, “Innovating A Sustainable Future for All.” At this year’s conference, the focus is on sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the actions we must take to ensure that the next generation will live on a more sustainable planet. The Scopeathon social impact projects all fall into the 17 goals outlined in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Students will get hands-on experience learning to scope a data project with real-world, positive social impact. Students will be placed on teams with other students who care about using data to make a difference and connect with local nonprofits and government agencies who are interested in leveraging their data more effectively. This experience will prepare students for capstone projects and could lead to research opportunities for students. Students can sign up for the Scopeathon on Eventbrite.

Governments and Non-Profits

If you’re a local or regional government agency, nonprofit, or other social good organization, and would like to get a problem you’re facing scoped, learn how to do it yourselves, get connected to enthusiastic and passionate students, and meet peers interested in the use of data to increase impact, please fill out this form.

Ideally, partner organizations should have:

  1. a problem that could be addressed with data they have available at their organization, and
  2. people from their organization who can attend the event and participate in the training.

Participants from the partner organization will join in the scoping process and work with a team of students to apply it to the problem they bring to the event. We ask partner organizations to plan to have 2 to 3 one-hour calls with us ahead of the event to prepare their problem and to attend both the Friday-evening kick-off event and the day-long training on Saturday. If your organization is interested in participating, please fill out this form.


The event will start on Friday evening with a panel discussing the importance and challenges of scoping a project well. We’ll give partners a chance to talk about the problem they’re bringing, and pair up student teams with the partner organizations. 

On Saturday, the all-day workshop will focus on each phase of the scoping process that the Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) Lab has developed over the last 10 years. After each phase, students and partner organizations will work on that phase for their project. By the end of the day, you’ll have worked together to create a project scope that can become an effective and impactful solution for you and, most importantly, gained the skills to effectively scope a data science project that informs your organization’s operations.