How can open data be useful to nonprofits? Three examples

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(Michael Lenczner) #1

A couple weeks ago, we gave an introduction to what open data is. This week, we want to start a discussion on the opportunities open data provides for the nonprofit sector. We highlight three examples of open data that nonprofits are already leveraging to help them do their work.

1) Open Grants Data
Grants data—data on transactions between funders and their grantees—can communicate valuable information about the nonprofit sector, its activities, and relationships within the sector. They help us better understand: who is working on what? Because open grants data contain such rich information about funders and grantee activities, they can be a valuable resource for nonprofits themselves. As Ben noted in his last post, new tools leveraging open grants data enable nonprofits to more efficiently find sources of funding, or locate potential collaborators who are doing similar work.

2) Open Environmental Data
In the United States, we’ve seen how scientists, activists, and nonprofits convened to preserve and “rescue” government climate change data—public data many feared would disappear under the Trump administration. Publicly available environmental data can be a valuable tool for environmental nonprofits and advocacy groups. For example, a Canadian environmental charity could access open data about federal brownfields to monitor the government’s process in cleaning up those sites. Public Lab, a non-profit initiative based out of Cambridge, MA, collects real-time environmental data that they release as open data sets to “advocate for better environmental management, regulations and enforcement.”.

3) Open Immigration data
There are over 30 openly licensed datasets from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on Canada’s Open Government Portal. Could data on migration be of use to nonprofits? Last November, activists, nonprofits, journalists, and data geeks came together in Toronto to explore how data could be used to tackle immigration issues at a community hackathon called MigrahackTO. This event focused on how open data can complement journalistic storytelling—which can be valuable approach for nonprofits looking to convincingly communicate issues about the communities they are serving.

These are only some of the many possible ways that nonprofits and community groups can leverage open data to advance their work. Do you have any other great examples of how openly licensed datasets are being used to create a better world? Let us know in the comments!


Opportunities of administrative data-sharing for the social sector