Scopeathon for Social Good

July 14 – 16 , 2023

The Data Science and Public Policy Lab, with the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy is hosting a Scopeathon for Social Good at Carnegie Mellon University, DC Campus. The Scopeathon is a day-long training event where students and partners from government and nonprofit organizations will collaborate and learn how to scope an actionable data science/AI/ML project for social impact. Unlike a typical “hackathon”, where you might write some code or analyze data, likely with an ill-defined problem, the focus at the scopeathon is to give participants hands-on experience with the perhaps most underfocused 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 coding and analysis that follows have its intended impact.

This year’s Scopeathon is partnering with the Public Service Weekend program to focus on “Building an Equitable and Sustainable World Through Public Interest Technology”.


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 follow-up opportunities for students to work on these projects. 

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 talk 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.


Heinz College Washington, DC
444 N. Capitol Street
Washington, DC 20001

** Please bring a government issued ID when visiting the building.

FRIDAY, July 14

5:00 PM Check In Begins
Refreshments will be available 

6:00PM Welcome & Launch: Marie Coleman & Gladys Perez Sriprasert

6:10PM “Data Science for Social Good” and an Introduction to the Scopeathon

Rayid Ghani, Distinguished Career Professor, Heinz College

Panel Conversation with our Scope-a-thon partners

Professor Ghani will introduce several of our partner organizations to talk about their organizations, their individual backgrounds, as well as opportunities within their organizations and fields  for policy, tech and data professionals.

7:30PM Networking Reception with Project Partners

8:00PM Evening adjourns – students to complete the form with their project preferences by 8pm



LOCATION:  Heinz College Washington DC (Conference Room 285)

9:00AM Welcome

9:10AM KEYNOTE: Humans of Public Service.  Brian Whitaker, CIO for FDIC and founder, Humans of Public Service

9:45AM Scope-a-thon, Part I – Defining the Goals

Rayid Ghani along with Kasun Amarasinghe, Alice Lai, and Liliana Milan from the Data Science for Social Good lab will lead the student teams. Team leaders and partner organizations in developing a scope of work for a current project.

11:00AM Break

11:15AM Scope-a-thon, Part 2 – Determining the Actions and Interventions

12:30PM Lunch Break

2:00PM Scope-a-thon, Part 3 – Understanding what data is needed and what data is available

3:15PM Break

3:30PM Scope-a-thon, Part 4  – Defining the Analysis and Validation Plan

Light snacks will be available during breaks

4:45PM Break

5:00PM Scope-a-thon, Part 5  – Revisiting Ethical Concerns and Questions – 

6:00PM Preparing Scope-a-thon Presentation

7:30PM Work session ends

Our Scopeathon Project Partners