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Welcome to Innovation in the Burg, a podcast about science and innovation in St. Petersburg. If you’re a self-described science or technology geek, or even if you aren’t, this will be a fun and informative conversation. Each week, we’ll be joined by a local science or technology expert who will talk about what they’re working on. But to make sure we keep this in perspective and we don’t become too technical, we have a community member joining us. Our hope is that you learn something new and enjoy our conversation.


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01/20/2020 | Episode 011 | 24:55

Innovation in The 'Burg: How one unexpected partnership is using data to keep families together

How one unexpected partnership is using data to keep families together

On this episode of Innovation in the 'Burg, Alison welcomes Dr. Sandra Braham of Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services and Tom Witmer of SageLegion to the podcast to talk about their unexpected partnership. Thanks to a chance meeting at a luncheon, the two began collaborating on a data project to help GCJFCS find indicators that would predict a second removal of the child from their family home. They talk innovation mindset, data and keeping families together.

Key Insights

  • Today's expert: Dr. Sandra Braham, President/CEO of Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services
  • Today's community member: Tom Witmer, founder and CEO of SageLegion
  • Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services (GCJFCS) is among the largest Jewish community services organizations in the country.
  • The Jewish teaching, Tikkun Olam means "healing or repairing the world." Today, a large majority of the GCJFCS clients (95 percent) are not Jewish.
  • GCJFCS is a subcontractor of the child welfare system, providing case management services. Their main goal is to keep children and families together and to reunite them if a child is removed from the home.
  • An unlikely partnership developed between GCJFCS and SageLegion when Tom and Sandra met at a luncheon. They're working to prevent children from being removed from the home for a second time.
  • They asked, "Are there indicators or factors that contribute to children being removed from the home a second time?" Now, a group of Tampa Bay data scientists are combing through the data to find out.
  • The platform that SageLegion built to solve this problem connects subject matter experts with complex solutioning, thanks to the volunteer group, Tampa Bay Data Science Meet-up.
  • Tom and Sandra talk about the messiness of data, particularly when the data comes in the form of sentences and must be combed through for indicators and trends in a central database.
  • Tom calls GCJFCS' willingness to try out data analytics to solve their problems an example of an Innovation Mindset. "Most people will say no, they won't give it a try," Tom says.
  • Tampa Bay Data Scientists Meet Up is set to present the findings of their research in Q1 of this year.
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About the host

Alison Barlow is the Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Innovation District. Her role is to harness expertise in health science, marine science, education, and art to form unique collaborations. These multi-sector, cross discipline collaborations strive to identify innovative solutions that will grow the economic and social vibrancy of St. Petersburg and address key global issues. Alison grew up in St. Petersburg, graduated from Boca Ciega High School, received a Bachelors in Hospitality Administration from Florida State University, and later a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Management of Global Information Systems from American University in Washington D.C. For 17 years, Alison worked as a business and technology consultant based in Washington DC, often for the Department of Defense. She focused on strategic planning, process improvement and technology collaboration. Following her relocation back to St. Petersburg, Alison became the manager and a lead facilitator for Collaborative Labs at St. Petersburg College. Alison joined the St. Petersburg Innovation District as its inaugural Executive Director in June of 2017. In addition to her work, Alison is involved with the Leadership St. Petersburg Alumni Association, Friends of Strays Animal Shelter Board, and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.


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