A value proposition for Open Data in philanthropy?

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(Ben McNamee) #1

Much of the focus on the value of Open Data focuses on value to the government and for-profit sectors. Open Data can do wonders for increasing government transparency, allowing for a more informed and engaged electorate. It can also do wonders at stimulating economic development, through being a valuable input to start-up firms providing innovative market solutions. While these arguments are easily transferable to the non-profit sector (openness, transparency, and innovation aren’t constrained to specific sectors), the explicit value proposition for Open Data in a philanthropic setting needs more development. While I don’t have the answer here, I do want to highlight a few possibilities that should be included in a value proposition.

  1. Open Data facilitates Funder-Grantee-Sector learning.
    Recent research by the Center for Evaluation Innovation finds the fewer than 3 in 10 foundations share learnings with their grantees and fewer than 2 in 10 share learnings with the broader public. There is so much potential in funders sharing their learnings in a more open manner. At Transform the Sector, a one day conference on data in the non-profit sector, I spoke about how Open Data can (and should) be used by funders to expand their value proposition beyond granting and into data and knowledge sharing as well. You can find a video of this talk on this Knowledge Centre today.
  2. Open Data increases the evidence-base available for strategic decision-making.
    With more data, and more valuable data, funders and non-profits can make better decisions about where to fund, where to fundraise, and how to design programs. Two recent examples of this in action are Landscape, which is an online database of grant-making in Canada. Non-profits can access this data to find funders that align with their mission and outcomes.
    In the United Kingdom, 360 Giving provides a similar platform for UK grant-making. In a recent blog post, the Lloyd Banks foundation talks about how they used this platform to identify where their funding overlaps with other funders, providing an opportunity to work collaboratively. They also found where their funding doesn’t overlap with other funders, and therefore their grant-making is more vital to non-profits. “Being aware of the way we fund in relation to others helps us navigate our future path”

What other value propositions can you think of?


How can open data be useful to nonprofits? Three examples
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(YPI Canada) #2

Hi, Ben,

Thanks for opening this discussion! Transparency really has been an evolving conversation in the world of philanthropy, especially among grantmakers.

I was recently listening to a take from the UK, in a podcast by Alliance magazine, where transparency was being discussed as a valuable tool for building trust and stimulating more meaningful engagement, with both grantees and the public.

There’s another really interesting tool that’s recently been made available to US-based foundations - Glasspockets, by the Foundation Center. Some of the foundations using it have put forward that it helps to be able to learn from what peers are doing, and that it builds in a certain layer of accountability to be able to assess where you stand in relation to some of those best practices.

Rachel Paris
Social Impact Coordinator, Youth and Philanthropy Initiative Canada


(Ben McNamee) #3

Thanks so much for providing those two resources Rachel. I’m particular taken with the Glass Pockets project. I’ve never come across it before, but it looks like an incredible resource for funders and non-profits alike.

The trust and accountability piece is such an important value as well. It has to extend to the not so great results as well. I remember at the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations Learning conference in Chicago last year, they had a fail fest. A number of funders spoke openly to all attendees about something at their organization that went wrong, and how they learned from it. It was incredible, and went such a long way to building trust amongst all present.

Ben