In January 2014, President Obama took a bold step towards ensuring our nation reaches its maximum potential by launching the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK). For many, the anecdotal evidence that boys and men of color are not reaching their full potential in our nation has been clear for generations; just turn on your television.

Despite the fact that there are generations of boys and men of color that have and continue to make a positive impact on our nation and world, success eludes many. Moreover, there is now longitudinal data that supports this conjecture.  Not that boys and men of color cannot or will not, but that many have not and will with the proper support.

It is that data and that idea that brought a group of designers, data scientists, builders, practitioners, students, and others together for the first MBK Data Jam on August 2nd.

Since launching MBK, a task force has been commissioned, a report has been released, and the White House has hosted listening sessions around the country to take the pulse of the nation on the issue.  All these steps are great, but are what you might expect from any shiny new government initiative.

Significantly, corporations and private foundations have made commitments – about $300M worth to date – to the effort.  The Corporation for National and Community Service has shifted the focus of its Social Innovation Fund to support positive MBK outcomes.  The #MyBrothersKeeper hashtag permeates twitter and instagram,  and there are pictures of any number of celebrities pledging their personal support.

The MBK Task Force has done good work in carrying the momentum from January.  However, their best work may be something that has not made headlines; the data. As part of the 90 Day Report to the President, the Task Force pulled out the relevant data from Federal Agencies desegmented by race within gender.  The Task Force then made those data sets available at

Desegmentation by race within gender is no small task.  Working with Federal Agencies to provide the data to the public in a usable form – .xml, JSON, etc.. – may be even more significant.  This has never been done before.

Why is the data important?

  • Without the relevant data there would be no way to measure success. We have to know where we are to figure out where we need to go.
  • Yes, there is data supporting the idea that boys and men of color are not reaching their full potential in our country.  No, that data does not support many assumptions/perceptions about boys and men of color.
  • Yes, over $300M in commitments have been made to date, but without data it will be hard to make the case for continued support, monetary or otherwise.
  • The pioneering work the MBK Task Force is doing with data, intra-governmental coordination, and partnerships can be applied to any other future population or problem.


On August 2nd the U. S. Department of Education and Georgetown’s Beek Center for Social Impact & Innovation convened a data jam to create data visualizations to ensure we understand where we are, our approach is not driven by assumption, and that we tell the full story.  A first step in building tech-enabled solutions to use the data better and support MBK outcomes.


Recap of the first My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam hosted by Georgetown University & the US Department of Education in Washington, D.C.



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