2016 Game Changer: Dwayne Watkins
Data is more than just numbers and charts for this nonprofit data administrator in Atlanta.
The East Lake Foundation, a nonprofit established in 1995, is a great example of community redevelopment. The East Lake community, which was once one of the nation’s most violent housing projects, has improved over the past 20 years through efforts to improve education, housing and community wellness. And Dwayne Watkins has done his part to make meaningful social change and innovate through data administration.
Watkins, 30, has been a database administrator at the East Lake Foundation for almost three years. His history as a job coach and as a data analyst at the Center for Working Families Inc. has given him valuable background to his current role.
Watkins is currently working on the ELF Database project for the East Lake Foundation. His task is to identify a database that best fits the needs of the foundation. He collaborates with software vendors to build a comprehensive database that shows the collaborative effect of that database in real time. He’s proud of this project because he says it will eventually change the way the organization addresses the holistic approach of revitalizing of neighborhoods.
It was challenging for Watkins to change the data culture in the organization. How would he make data less daunting and more empowering? He approached the challenge by learning to be more creative in making data relatable to the stakeholders and by creating engaging charts and presentations.
“Helping others to embrace data and see the value that it adds to direct service in nonprofit was more challenging than I initially thought it would be,” Watkins said. “However, to see an organization go from being afraid of data and barely using it to embracing it and data being at the forefront of all conversations made most of the long nights worth it.”
His efforts have not gone unnoticed by his co-workers.
Watkins’ previous experience as a career coach while also managing data has allowed him to better support the community workforce programs, track trends and make recommendations on process improvements in the foundation, according to Jennifer McCrary, program manager at East Lake Foundation.
Watkins, she said in her nomination letter, “has been a driving force on data that has supported the community workforce programs leading to higher employment rates and income.”