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Open Data for Charities – opportunities and roadblocks

Warning: Liveblogging – prone to error, inaccuracy, and howling affronts to grammar. This post will be improved over the course of a few days.

 

A session about use of open data by charities, inspired by the Data for Good report from Nesta.

Tracey Gyateng from the NPC is helping charities measure the work they do. How do they know, for example, if offenders stop offending after their work? Can government datasets help that? They think so, and are working on systems to help do that.

They also work with charities to open their eyes to the potential of data. Some of the rhetoric is around making money from data – but it can be used for charities to improve the well-being of people.

Many charities don’t know much about open data – or have the understanding to know how to release or access it.

360 Giving – an emerging data standard for grants. Policies are beginning to be published on Github to allow people to access them more.

Breaks in the data supply chain

Like the food supply chain, the data supply chain is broken. There’s no opportunity to thank the farmer that grew the supermarket food you bought. The same is true of the data flow in charities. You give to Comic Relief or the like, and there’s little feedback of what your money ends up doing, bar the few the film for the following year. We can engage the citizens that volunteer and donate more.

80% of charties have less than £100,000 in income – so it’s important to keep focused on that.

Mobile sensor feeds could be useful – combining sensor data and open data could be very useful. There are various projects underway on that.

Even experience with data is not as much of an advantage as you might think – problems with formats and understanding its nature can be difficult.

Charities: big and small

Are the challenges of open data for small charities and big charities different? One participant thought so, another suggested that if big charities lead, small charities can follow from that. But the University of Southampton research suggests that for small charities it’s much more about delivery than engagement.

Citizens Advice has had a lot of help from DataKind to help analyse their resources. They’ve produced some useful models, that smaller charities could use.

Local organisations often don’t think they have the time or organisation to collect data other than that required by contracts or law. As organisations, you do have data and information about your area that you could be sharing. The biggest problem is breaking the barrier of the procurement mindset: they are procured for that service and that service alone.

It would be great if the bigger organisations took on this modelling and passed it down the chain. So many of the small organisers are scared of the big funders and doing things they weren’t paid for.

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