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Tech Impact merges with DDIL, opens Riverfront center

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The new Tech Impact Opportunity Center will support the organization’s IT Works training program. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – It was a conversation between Patrick Callihan and Patrick Callahan that jumpstarted the latest evolution at Tech Impact, the national IT workforce training and nonprofit support organization.

Callahan, a founder of data analytics firm CompassRed and proponent behind the startup Delaware Data Innovation Lab (DDIL), was talking to Callihan, executive director of Tech Impact, about the future of the lab launched by $2 million in federal stimulus funds from the CARES Act.

“Patrick thought that the lab would thrive better in a profit structure under an organization that could leverage other assets,” Callihan recalled of the effort that was initially launched as its own nonprofit.

Hector Maldonado-Reis, left, and Ryan Harrington are the associate directors and co-leads of the Delaware Data Innovation Lab. | PHOTO COURTESY OF TECH IMPACT

Instead of fundraising to fund support services, Tech Impact could shoulder that burden while dollars flowed to the lab’s research work. In early October, DDIL and Tech Impact announced a merger doing just that. Associate directors Ryan Harrington and Héctor Maldonado-Reis will co-lead DDIL as Executive Director Anne Clauss departs, but Callahan will continue to chair the lab’s advisory board.

Callihan said that DDIL will continue to have a degree of autonomy in selecting the issues it tackles for research. With DDIL soon exiting its CARES Act funding requirements, Maldonado-Reis said it would likely focus broadly on education, health care and housing; some of its first projects tackled COVID-19 testing in wastewater, college financial aid applications, and tracking New Castle County eviction filings.

“The whole goal has always been to integrate data in thinking of a holistic person and developing that person,” Maldonado-Reis said. “It’s really exciting to be able to enter into that space in a big way, particularly here in Delaware, as there’s a lot of focus on the social determinants of health, workforce development and, it goes without saying, things like COVID.”

Maldonado-Reis said the lab is already working on new projects with the Delaware State Housing Authority, where it will try to determine if mortgage assistance is reaching the right communities; the Delaware Health Information Network, where it is building out a community well-being index, and the state Department of Education, where it’s working on early childhood initiatives.

Callihan noted that while Tech Impact has long worked with nonprofits nationwide in data analysis, like dashboarding and visualization, DDIL will bring a next level of research that could assist their work.

“The leverage of the Ph.D. students that we have as data fellows is really an unbelievable untapped resource that’s available in the market for doing some really sophisticated and interesting work,” he added.

Tech Impact Executive Director Patrick Callihan | PHOTO COURTESY OF TECH IMPACT

For now, DDIL’s four doctoral fellows will continue to operate out of CSC Station on the Riverfront where it was launched, but Callihan said they were evaluating other spaces for the future too. It has a new option with its recently opened Opportunity Center near the Market Street Bridge, which will host Tech Impact’s IT Works training program as well as some administrative offices.

That 3,400-square-foot space in the B&O Station Building was funded in part by a $1.25 million grant from Barclays Bank as well as donations from the Longwood Foundation, Welfare Foundation, and Crystal Trust Foundation, among others. It provides permanent space for Tech Impact’s IT training courses for the first time, after years of rotating among available city spaces.

Callihan said that he’s excited to open the space at a time when so much activity is beginning at the Riverfront, including Delaware State University’s arrival and CSC Station’s growth, among others.

“It’s great to be in the middle, literally and figuratively, of all of that innovation,” he said, noting the permanent space will also help to better market the IT Works program to prospective applicants.

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