The idea behind this comes out of the US Based Markets for Good: Information to Drive Social Impact, whose beautifully stated vision is: Imagining a Social Sector Powered by Information.
They say creating social change is hard and, in an increasingly complex, interconnected world, the demand for tangible proof of social change and impact is growing. We need to make the best decisions utilizing all the resources available. These decisions require having the right information at the right time. They require proactive organization and generous sharing of the information we have. Sounds about right.
They talk about the efficient infrastructure of the for-profit world for sharing data between investors and bankers, producers of goods and services, and consumers, and how there are feedback loops between all. They compare that to the hodgepodge of poor data, spotty collection, little standardization and not enough sharing in the Community Benefits sector.
What kind of data are they talking about? Everything from baseline social and environmental data, to data on intervention programs and their outcomes, to information on organizations to information on grants, investments and volunteer time.
In Ontario, the Ontario NonProfit Network has been working with Poweredby Data to create Towards a Data Strategy for the Ontario Nonprofit Sector.
The Vancouver meeting was called together and facilitated by Trina Isakson of 27 Shift with Michael Lenczner of PoweredbyData providing information on the work underway in Ontario. There were reps from VOCBC, BC Centre for Non-Profit Management and Sustainability, Realize Co-op, Vantage Point, Vancouver Foundation, Vancity, United Way, UBC, Tides Canada, SFU, OpenDataBC, Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, Government of BC Communications and Public Engagement, and bc211.
We discussed examples of current initiatives by the attendees, then had group discussions about what data our various organization have, use, and seek. We also discussed various opportunities and reservations around an open data strategy.
This was followed by a conversation about what would need to be true in order for a data strategy to move forward in BC? Some of the thoughts included an inventory of existing data, clear goals and benefits of the strategy, a ‘back-bone organization’ that would coordinate participants efforts, and open participation to all community benefit organizations.
There was some concern–no surprise–about how this could be funded.
One of the foundations reported they would be increasing their creation and consumption of data and that would drive some change. One BC Government participant mentioned a proposed strategy to promote open data they are working on.
There was a great deal of agreement around the room that the effects of more efficient creation, collection and sharing of data could have a profound effect on the sector.
What do you think? Would better data help your organization? Is this a worthwhile undertaking? How could it be organized? How could the sector fund it?
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