Community & Government

There Is No Soft Data

Melinda French Gates

Lesson time 10:14 min

When it comes to giving, both qualitative and quantitative data can provide deeply valuable information. In this lesson, Melinda teaches how to use data to understand needs in the community and define your goals and measurements for success.

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Topics include: Look at the Data• Data at the Gates Foundation• There Is No Such Thing as "Soft" Data• Be Wary of Biased Research


[MUSIC PLAYING] MELINDA GATES: I think data is important all the time. And I wouldn't say you need to measure data all the time, and in fact, I think that can be quite intrusive in people's lives. But I think you need to gather enough data to know are-- am I on the right track with my giving in this particular area, and are we making progress? You can only measure what you're doing by having some data and some feedback. So there are different types of data out there. There's quantitative data and qualitative data. Quantitative data are the numbers and the metrics that you get back. Qualitative are more the stories and the features and the surround sound of what you hear when you're getting these hard concrete numbers back. I'm trained in computer science in my background, so I'm definitely a math nerd. I grew up being a math nerd, but I really love people. And I-- I'm probably an empath, people would say. I like to listen to people, and I feel like I only get a full picture of another human being if I can understand more aspects of their lives. And so for me, it's been a beautiful way to combine those two sides of my personality. And I think it probably enhances my giving and my philanthropy. [MUSIC PLAYING] You know, I think when we started as a foundation, quite often we were collecting quantitative data and not collecting qualitative data or understanding the importance of it. Now, I would say, any time we're going into an area, we are really collecting both quantitative data and qualitative data. A great example would be malaria bed nets. I can tell you how many malaria bed nets have been produced, how many have been delivered into what communities, but it's also really important to know were they hung up? You know, were they actually hung up? And does anybody sleep under it even after it was hung up? And so to get at that, you have to have the qualitative data. If you're finding that the malaria bed nets made it all the way to the local community but nobody's hanging them up, or they get into homes but women aren't using them, you need to understand the qualitative piece of that. Why aren't they using them? What would help them use it? What did they not understand? Is it too hot? Is it too uncomfortable? Does it smell? I mean, there are all kinds of pieces. So to really get at the problem and to know, okay, are malaria bed nets not just getting out there but being used? So let's say your goal is that you want to affect third grade reading in your child's school. That you're seeing that some kids are actually reading at grade level by the end of the year, but there really are quite a few who maybe are falling behind. And one of the places that you identify is that there really aren't very many books in the school library that are interest of kids. So you might have a quantitative goal which is I want to make sure there are more third grade reading level books on the shelves in the local library and in my s...

About the Instructor

One of the greatest philanthropists in history, Melinda French Gates has dedicated her life to giving back to the world. Now she’s teaching how you can identify your own unique assets—time, money, specific skills, or even your voice to discover a strategic path that can turn your power into progress.

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Melinda French Gates

A philanthropist and advocate for women and girls, Melinda French Gates teaches you how to take what you’re good at and use it to create change.

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