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Why We Make Free, Public Information More Accessible — and How You Can Help

February 17, 2017

An appeal from our IssueLab colleagues Gabi Fitz and Lisa Brooks.

File_folder_lockOne of the key roles the nonprofit sector plays in civil society is providing evidence about social problems and their solutions. Given recent changes to policies regarding the sharing of knowledge and evidence by federal agencies, that function is more critical than ever.

Nonprofits deliver more than direct services such as running food banks or providing shelter to people who are homeless. They also collect and share data, evidence, and lessons learned so as to help all of us understand complex and difficult problems.

Those efforts not only serve to illuminate and benchmark our most pressing social problems, they also inform the actions we take, whether at the individual, organizational, community, or policy level. Often, they provide the evidence in "evidence-based" decision making, not to mention the knowledge that social sector organizations and policy makers rely on when shaping their programs and services and individual citizens turn to inform their own engagement.

In January 2017, several U.S. government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, were ordered by officials of the incoming Trump administration not to share anything that could be construed as controversial through official communication channels such as websites and social media channels. (See "Federal Agencies Told to Halt External Communications.") Against that backdrop, the nonprofit sector's interest in generating and sharing evidence has become more urgent than ever.

IssueLab's mission is to provide free and immediate access to the knowledge nonprofits and foundations produce about the world as it is — as well as the things individuals and organizations are doing to make it better. We know there's no such thing as a post-truth society, and we are committed to supporting nonprofits and foundations in their efforts to gather and disseminate facts and evidence.

Seeking Volunteer "Factivists"

Providing access to evidence and lessons learned is always important, but in light of recent events, we believe it's more necessary than ever. That's why we are asking for your help in providing — and preserving — access to this critical knowledge base.

Over the next few months, we will be updating and maintaining special collections of non-academic research on the following topics and need lead curators with issue expertise to lend us a hand. IssueLab special collections are an effort to contextualize important segments of the growing evidence base we curate, and are one of the ways we  help visitors to the platform learn about nonprofit organizations and resources that may be useful to their work and knowledge-gathering efforts.

Possible special collection topics to be updated or curated:

→ Access to reproductive services (new)
→ Next steps for ACA
→ Race and policing
→ Immigrant detention and deportation
→ Climate change and extractive mining (new)
→ Veterans affairs
→ Gun violence

If you are a researcher, knowledge broker, or service provider in any of these fields of practice, please consider volunteering as a lead curator. We are accepting applications from individuals and teams who can commit to at least six months of fifteen hours of work per month. We will work closely with each team to establish inclusion criteria and collection strategies.

Individuals and teams are welcome to apply. And if you're interested in becoming an IssueLab "factivist" and contributing to a collection but don't want to serve as a lead curator, let us know and we'll find a team for you to join.

What are you waiting for? Apply now!

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