How Seer is helping people use data to drive change
For the past decade, the rural town of Bourke in New South Wales, Australia, has struggled with juvenile crime. A cycle of expulsions, jail time and broken families is leading to greater social disadvantages, and has taken a particular toll on Bourke’s Indigenous population. For the past few years, however, Bourke’s community has been using data to help divert young people from the criminal justice system. And they are seeing results.
The data platform being used to drive change in Bourke is from Seer Data & Analytics. Seer is an Australian tech start-up that enables people to use data and machine learning tools for social benefit. In Bourke, Seer’s platform is being used as part of the Maranguka initiative, and is facilitating data-sharing between fifteen different contributors, including government departments and not-for-profit organisations. The resulting datasets are being used to identify problematic patterns, help shape decision-making and measure the results.
Access and Empowerment
Seer was founded in 2016 by CEO Kristi Mansfield and Data Scientist Adam Peaston as a civic tech startup. For Mansfield, who has a Masters in Philanthropy and Social Investment and a background in the tech industry, Seer is a marriage of her interests — technology and innovation for social benefit. “What I was interested in is how do you apply philanthropic money to be the innovation money of the social sector,” she told us.
Mansfield also realised that with complex, systemic issues such as unemployment, homelessness, family violence or addiction, it was important to invest in place-based initiatives. As a result, Seer seeks to empower communities with the data they need to tackle local issues without needing to engage expensive consultants. What once took months and tens of thousands of dollars, is now possible on the Seer platform in mere hours.
Seer’s system includes a library of datasets, facilities for sharing data between institutions and organisations, and analytics tools for problem solving. According to Mansfield, the goal behind Seer is “making it easy for people to access data to make better decisions to get better outcomes in their communities.”
Deriving the Data
Seer’s business is built on improving access to data, and this has required the team to build strong partnerships with data contributors. Some of Seer’s data is sourced from publicly-available open datasets, but in order to provide greater coverage, Seer negotiates with various data custodians. These range from government agencies to non-profits and even corporates, some of which are providing data access to the social sector and creating data communities on Seer. Seer also facilitates data sharing between different Government agencies and local organisations, having built privacy features into their system architecture to maintain the confidence of contributors. This diligence is paying dividends for the company. “Because we have such a long track record of doing this, with so many government agencies and corporates, we really are set up as an data platform intermediary now,” said Mansfield.
Expanding the Dataset
Data access and agency is clearly a global issue and Seer is now expanding to tackle opportunities in the United States. According to Mansfield, “The US system is decentralised. Everything happens locally, and we can see massive opportunities to bring the Seer data solution to communities in Texas especially in El Paso, Dallas and Houston, where there’s a pressing need to solve problems locally.” If Seer can replicate and scale the outcomes achieved in Bourke, Australia, then Mansfield estimates a result of 1500 people being diverted from the criminal justice system, saving the state of Texas $130 million in one year alone.
Over the next few years, Seer will be scaling up within Australia as well as expanding into Texas. Mansfield explained that the business is looking to build more relationships with data providers to improve access for customers. Seer is seeking to raise a $4 million pre series A round to help fund this scale-up and expansion, before pursuing Series A funding in the United States.
Back in the town of Bourke, change is coming slowly. Years of intergenerational trauma cannot be dismantled swiftly. But with Seer’s data platform and the efforts of the local community, change is possible. And it’s measurable.
If you want to hear more about Seer Data & Analytics and their work equipping people with data tools to use for social good, listen to our full chat with Co-founder and CEO Kristi Mansfield on the Artesian Podcast: ArteHouse Innovation Series and check out https://seerdata.ai/.