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Philanthropy In/Sight: Mapping the Future

July 22, 2009

(Rick Schoff is senior vice president for information resources and publishing at the Foundation Center. This is his first post for PhilanTopic.)

It's been gratifying for us here at the Foundation Center to see the interest generated by the launch of our Philanthropy In/Sight GIS mapping application. For those who haven't seen or heard of it, In/Sight plots access points to information on 90,000 foundations, 150,000 grantee organizations, and 1.6 milliion grants made during 2003-2009, including U.S. foundation grants made internationally. Grants can be plotted against a variety of thematic data (e.g., demographic information) and at a number of geographic levels (e.g., congressional district). We also had the opportunity to include the Human Development Index information created by Measure of America.

What's really great, though, is seeing the beginning of a "wish list" for In/Sight functionality. From the get-go, we've been counting on getting lots of suggestions for enhancements to the application. One such suggestion is to be able to map "funding impact" in addition to grantee location. That's very much our goal for In/Sight. We also want to help demonstrate potential need and make it easy for funders to find out what other organizations are doing in their areas of interest.

I've been working at the intersection of data and new publishing technologies for years now, and from where I sit suggestions about mapping impact underscore an important point: Being able to do so has more to do with data than with technology. To that end, we're working with a number of foundations that are eager to put their best foot forward, information-wise (you know who you are, so thanks!) -- and are hopeful that many others will follow suit.

This is new territory -- for the center and the field -- and your input and feedback about In/Sight and data mapping are important to us. So let's have a conversation about how you think they should evolve!

-- Rick Schoff

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