Alex Hutchison, Director of the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF, shares her thoughts on the recent transition of her team to EFI. Alex’s work focusses on developing new ways to bring the best experience from across sectors to deliver data and data science projects for children in a responsible way. Here, she tells us how being part of EFI benefits the work of the Collaborative – and how the Collaborative contributes to EFI’s vision and ethos.
The Edinburgh Futures Institute has been described as the place where the University of Edinburgh’s world-class interdisciplinary expertise in social and data science, the arts, and humanities meets the external organisations that are tackling society’s most pressing needs. What better place for the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF to take residence after finding our feet at The Data Lab for our first 20 months of operation?
The Edinburgh Futures Institute will ultimately be located in the stunning Old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in the heart of the city. This behemoth of a building will bring together a host of diverse spaces from teaching to events, from lecture halls to meeting rooms, with zones for more informal encounters and break-out areas. But, for me, Edinburgh Futures Institute is less about the building and more about what that building symbolises. Figuratively speaking, Edinburgh Futures Institute is a place for sharing, convening and enabling. It is innovative, inclusive and diverse in its approaches. It has a global outlook with a focus delivering real-world impact on demand-driven challenges. Its whole raison d’être is to look to the future. To look at how we can apply leading minds to our visceral problems, for the next generation.
When reflecting on the suitability of the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF to become part of the array of programmes calling the Edinburgh Futures Institute home, the match could not seem more appropriate. Our focus on Responsible Innovation, on co-designing solutions through collaborative teams through our Impact Collaborations approach, and on sustainable and impactful outcomes for children, all align neatly with the ethos of Edinburgh Futures Institute.
There are a number of ways in which the Edinburgh Futures Institute can support the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF to grow and flourish, as it moves along the next part of its evolutionary journey. We are looking forward to working with colleagues to develop best practice about working in a truly interdisciplinary environment on challenge led research. We will have support with running our campaigns, initiatives and events. We can rely on more access to internal audiences at the University of Edinburgh as well as convening a global external network. There is huge opportunity to leverage communities of interest, both around data and around children. The potential to engage the student body to work on these highly impactful and demand-driven projects is hugely exciting. Being part of Edinburgh Futures Institute will also help to boost reputational value, increase visibility within and outside of the University.
The team at the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF are thrilled to be making this next step. This isn’t about a little fish jumping in a pond to swim around next to other fish (of varying sizes). This is about a truly symbiotic relationship where both parties can find benefit in working and growing together. We have a new home. And it couldn’t be a better fit for our established, yet growing, heart.