16 posts categorized "Open Data"

How to Keep Me Scrolling Through What You Are Sharing

November 02, 2017

Hello, my name is Tom and I am a Subscriber. And a Tweeter, a Follower, a Forwarder (FYI!), a Google Searcher, and a DropBox Hoarder. I subscribe to blogs, feeds, e-newsletters, and email updates. My professional title includes the word "knowledge," so I feel compelled to make sure I'm keeping track of the high volume of data, information, reports, and ideas flowing through the nonprofit and foundation worlds (yes, it is a bit of a compulsion…and I'm not even including my favorite travel, shopping, and coupon alerts).

It's a lot, and I confess I don't read all of it. It's a form of meditation, I guess, for me to scroll through emails and Twitter feeds while waiting in line at Aloha Salads. I skim, I save, I forward, I retweet, I copy and save for later reading (later when?). In fact, no one can be expected to keep up, so how does anyone make sense of it all, or even find what we need when we need it? Everyone being #OpenForGood and sharing everything is great, but who's reading it all? And how do we make what we're opening up for good actually good?

Making Knowledge Usable

At some point, we've all battled Drowning in Information-Starving for Knowledge syndrome (from John Naisbitt's Megatrends — though I prefer E.O. Wilson's "starving for wisdom" theory). The information may be out there, but it rarely exists in a form that is easily found, read, understood, and (most importantly) usedFoundation Center and IssueLab have made it easier for people in the sector to know what is being funded, where new ideas are being tested, and what evidence and lessons are available. But to really succeed, nonprofits and foundations will have to upload and share many more of their documents than they do now. And we need to make sure that the information we share is readable, usable, and easy to apply.

1-2-3-reporting-model

DataViz guru Stephanie Evergreen recently taught me a new hashtag: #TLDR – "Too Long, Didn't Read."

Evergreen proposes that every published report be available in three formats — a one-page handout with key messages, a three-page executive summary, and a 25-page report (plus appendices). That way,  "scanners," "skimmers," and "deep divers" can access the information in the form they prefer and in the time that's available to them. Such an approach also requires writing (and formatting) differently for each of these different audiences. (By the way, do you know which one you are?)

From Information to Influence

But it isn't enough to make your reports accessible, searchable, and easily readable in both a short and long form; you also have to include the information people need to make decisions and take action. It means deciding in advance who you hope to inform and influence and what you want them do with that information. If you expect people to read, learn from, and apply the information you're sharing, you need to be clear about your reason for sharing it, and you need to give people the right kind of information.

Too many times I've read reports that include promising findings and interesting lessons, and then I race through all the footnotes and the appendices at the back of the report looking for resources that could point me to the details or implementation guidance. Alas, I usually wind up trying to track down the authors by email or phone.

2005 study of more than one thousand evaluations focused on human services found only twenty-two that shared any analysis of implementation learnings — i.e., the lessons people learned about how best to put the program or services in place. We can't expect other people and organizations to share your knowledge and what you've learned if they cannot access information that helps them use that knowledge and apply it to their own programs and organizations. YES, I want to hear about your lessons and "a-ha" moments, but I also want to see data and an analysis of the common challenges faced by all nonprofits and foundations:

  • How to apply and adapt program and practice models in different contexts
  • How to sustain effective practices
  • How to scale successful efforts to additional people and communities

This means making sure your evaluations and reports include a frank discussion of the challenges related to implementation — challenges that others are likely to face. It also means placing your findings in the context of existing knowledge and learnings and using commonly accepted definitions that make it easier to build on the knowledge created by others. For example, in our recent middle school connectedness initiative, our evaluator, Learning for Action, reviewed the literature first to identify the specific components of and best practices in youth mentoring, thus enabling us to build the evaluation on what had been done in the field by others, report clearly about what we learned about our own initiative, and share that knowledge with the field. 

So please plan ahead and define your knowledge sharing and influence agenda up front, and as you're doing so keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Who do you hope reads your report?
  • What information should it share in order to be useful and used?
  • Review similar studies and reports and determine in advance what additional knowledge you'll need to share, as well as what you plan to document and evaluate.
  • Use common definitions and program model frameworks so that others are able to build on the accumulated knowledge of the field and not have to start from scratch each and every time.
  • Pay attention to the implementation, replication, and management challenges (staffing, training, communication, adaptation) that others are likely to face.
  • Disseminate your evaluation widely via conferences, in journals, through your networks, and in IssueLab's open repository.

And if you do all of the above, I will be happy to read through your report's footnotes and appendices the next time I'm waiting in line for a salad!

Headshot_tom_kellyTom Kelly (@TomEval, TomEval.com) is vice president of knowledge, evaluation and learning at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and has been learning and evaluating as a practitioner since the beginning of the century.  This post originally appeared as part of Glasspockets' #OpenForGood series, which explores new tools, promising practices, and inspiring examples of foundations that are opening up the knowledge they acquire for the benefit of the larger philanthropic sector and is presented in partnership with the Fund for Shared Insight.

Why Evaluations Are Worth Reading – or Not

October 26, 2017

EvaluationTruth in lending statement: I am an evaluator. I believe strongly in the power of excellent evaluations to inform, guide, support, and assess programs, strategies, initiatives, organizations, and movements. I have directed programs that were redesigned to increase their effectiveness, their cultural appropriateness, and their impact based on evaluation data; helped to design and implement evaluation initiatives here at the McCormick Foundation that changed the way we understand and do our work; and have worked with many foundation colleagues and nonprofits to find ways to make evaluation serve their needs for greater understanding and improvement.

One of the best examples I've seen of excellent evaluation within philanthropy came with a child abuse prevention and treatment project. Our foundation had funded almost thirty organizations that were using thirty-seven tools to measure the impact of treatment. Many of those tools were culturally inappropriate, designed for initial screenings, or inappropriate for other reasons, and staff from organizations running similar programs had conflicting views about them. Program staff here wanted to be able to compare program outcomes using uniform evaluation tools and to use that data to make funding, policy, and program recommendations, but they were at a loss as to how to do so in a way that honored grantees' knowledge and experience. A new evaluation initiative was funded that included the development of a "community of practice" to:

  • create a unified set of reporting tools;
  • learn from the data how to improve program design and implementation, and use data systematically to support staff/program effectiveness;
  • develop a new rubric that the foundation could use to assess programs and proposals; and
  • provide evaluation coaching for all organizations participating in the initiative.

The initiative was so successful that the participating nonprofits decided to continue to work together beyond the initial scope of the project to improve their own programs and better support the children and families they serve. This "Unified Project Outcomes" article describes the project and the processes that were established as a result in far greater detail.

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Two New Data Tools for the Open Ag Sector

August 14, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center's work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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You work at a foundation, government agency, or nonprofit committed to reducing poverty and hunger. Recognizing the importance of agriculture for achieving this goal, you've decided to focus on improving the lives of smallholder farmers, who represent a significant portion of those living on less than $2 a day. You know which regions you want to work in, and now you're trying to determine which value chains you should invest in to create the greatest impact. As part of the Initiative for Open Ag Funding, Foundation Center has two new tools to help you answer that question.

First, an acknowledgment: such a decision requires an analysis of many, many data points. Among the factors to consider are: Which crops are produced by smallholder farmers? Which of those crops have the most potential to increase farmers' income? What does the market for these crops look like? What is the potential for significant productivity gains? Is there the infrastructure needed to get these goods to market? Who else is investing in these particular value chains?

The Initiative for Open Ag Funding focuses on this last question: Who is doing what, where, with whom, and to what effect? And rather than reinvent the wheel, the initiative uses the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) data standard as its starting point. IATI aims to improve the transparency of international development and humanitarian resources and activities and has been widely adopted by bilateral and multilateral donors as well as many other organizations. To date, two of Foundation Center's major contributions have been: 1) filling a gap in IATI data; and 2) developing a tool to enrich that data so it better meets the needs of the agriculture sector.

Shedding Light on Foundation Funding for Agriculture

Foundation Center has been collecting and sharing data on foundations' grantmaking for decades. This data has been used to ground philanthropy research, inform grant prospecting, and foster collaboration. Given our comprehensive data on foundation grants and the fact that few foundations have published their data to IATI, we have opened our data on funding for international agriculture and food security activities. This data represents $4.3 billion worth of grants from nearly 1,900 funders to more than 3,000 organizations around the world. In addition to posting the data on the IATI Registry,* we've also made it accessible through a new and publicly available Open Agriculture Data map.

OpenAg_tools_grino

Making IATI Data More Relevant for Agriculture

At the moment, most data published to IATI is coded with OECD DAC purpose codes or the organization's own subject taxonomy. Early conversations with agricultural practitioners revealed, however, that these categories are not granular enough. In response, we developed an open source agriculture autocoder for the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) AGROVOC thesaurus. Enter a project title, description, or any other text and, using machine learning, the OpenAgClassifier will return codes for terms such as rice or bananas or goats. (You can learn more about our approach to open source in this blog post by my colleague, Dave Hollander.) As a result, what would have been a time-consuming and probably manual process of identifying who is working in, say, the rice value chain is now much faster and easier.

Foundation Center and the Open Ag Funding team know that data and tools alone won't lead to smarter investments or more collaboration. Our goal is simply to give organizations a better starting point for making decisions about where and how to direct their resources. Given the progress of the open data movement, a lack of data or good tools shouldn't be a major reason why organizations duplicate efforts, why Organization A didn't know to go to Organization B to learn more about their approach, or why an organization really making a difference is invisible to those that have the means to support it. Our hope is that by putting the right data and tools at their disposal, we can make it easier for organizations to focus on the harder things about getting development right.

Headshot_laia-grino(*Note: To avoid duplication of data on the IATI Registry, we have removed funders already publishing to IATI from our IATI data.)

Laia Griñó is director of data discovery at Foundation Center. For more posts in the FC Insight series, click here.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2017)

August 01, 2017

The most popular posts here on PhilanTopic in July include strong calls to action from sector veterans Gary Bass and Mark Rosenman, Cathy Cha, and Kate Kroeger; new posts by Blackbaud's Annie Rhodes and PEAK Grantmaking's Michelle Greanias; and a couple of "repeaters" (John Hewko's account of how Rotary International manages to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world, Kyoko's Q&A with the Rockefeller Foundation's Claudia Juech). Check 'em out (if you haven't already)!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The Brave New World of Open Source

May 09, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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OpensourceAllow me to introduce myself. My name is Dave Hollander, and I'm a data scientist here at Foundation Center. The role of a data scientist is to use techniques from statistics and computer science to make sense of and draw insights from large amounts of data. I work on the Application Development team, which engineers the code in Foundation Center products you use, including Foundation Maps and the new search tool that was launched as part of the redesign of foundationcenter.org.

Like nearly every software development team, the members of the center's Application Development team share code among ourselves as we work on new projects. This allows us to work on smaller parts of a larger machine while simultaneously ensuring that all the parts fit together. The individual parts are assembled during the development phase and eventually comprise the code base that powers the final product. When finished, that code lives internally on our servers and in our code repositories, which, in order to protect the intellectual property contained within, are not visible to the outside world. The downside to keeping our code private is that it does not allow for talented programmers outside Foundation Center to review the code, suggest improvements, and/or add their own entirely new twists to it.

We plan to change that this year.

Open-source software (OSS) is a term for any piece of code that is entirely visible and freely available to the public. Anyone can pull open-source code into their computer and either use it for a personal project or change it and "contribute" those changes back to the original project. Open source is not strictly related to code, however. Wikipedia, which allows anyone to create an account for free and edit articles and entries, is also an example of an open-source project. To ensure a high-level of quality throughout, submissions to Wikipedia are evaluated by volunteer editors, and while a bad entry may sneak through on occasion, the Wikipedia community eventually will find it, review it, and amend it.

Open-source code projects work in much the same way as Wikipedia, but rather than editing text, users edit code and then submit their changes back to the project. The process can be a challenge to monitor, but today there are tools available that make it relatively easy to manage the edits of multiple users and prevent source-code conflicts. The most popular is GitHub, a free service that serves as a repository for code projects and allows any user to make copies of any other project hosted on the platform. Once a project on GitHub is copied, the user can make changes to the original code, or use the code for his or her own purposes.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (March 2017)

April 04, 2017

Maybe the nicest thing we can say about March was that it came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. If the lion's share of your media consumption during the month was devoted to March Madness (of the sports or political variety) and you missed out on your regular PhilanTopic reading, well, here's your chance to catch up.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or gave you a reason to feel hopeful? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Apocalypse Later? Philanthropy and Transparency in an Illiberal World

March 02, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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Open-Data-470x352How long will it be before nonprofit transparency takes its place alongside diceros bicornis on the endangered species list? Hopefully never, but in a world that's growing more technologically sophisticated and more illiberal, I'm beginning to think that if it's not Apocalypse Now, maybe it's Apocalypse Later.

The value of transparency

Transparency has been a boon to the philanthropic sector, making it possible for organizations like Foundation Center, Guidestar, the Urban Institute, Charity Navigator, and others to create searchable databases spanning the entire nonprofit and foundation universe. Our efforts, in turn, contribute to responsible oversight, help nonprofits raise funds to pursue their missions, and fuel online platforms that enable donors to make better giving choices. Transparency also enables foundations to collaborate more effectively, leverage their resources more efficiently, and make real progress on critical issues such as black male achievement, access to safe water, and disaster response. The incredibly rich information ecosystem that undergirds the American social sector is the envy of others around the globe — not least because it gives us a clear view of what nonprofit initiative can accomplish, how it compares and contrasts with government, and how social, economic, and environmental issues are being addressed through private-public partnerships.

Where we are today

Federal law — U.S. Code, Title 26, Section 6104 — stipulates that public access to Form 990, a federal information form that tax-exempt organizations are required to file annually, must be provided promptly on request at the exempt organization's office or offices, or within thirty days of a written request. However, exempt organizations don't have to provide copies of their Forms 990 if they make these materials broadly available through the Internet, or if the IRS determines that the organization is being subject to a harassment campaign.

In 2015, Carl Malamud, the Don Quixote of open data, dragged transparency into the digital age when he brought suit against the Internal Revenue Service to force it to make the 990s of a handful of organizations that had been filed electronically available as machine-readable open data. Malamud won, and, somewhat surprisingly, the IRS then did more rather than less to comply with the order: as of June 2016, all Forms 990 filed electronically by 501(c)(3) organizations are available as machine-readable open data through Amazon Web Services. As such, they can be downloaded directly in digital form and processed by computers with minimal human intervention. The development represents a victory not only for Malamud but for the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Data Project, which has toiled for years to make 990s more accessible. The idea, of course, is that free, open data on nonprofits will enable more innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs to use the data in ways that help make the sector more effective and efficient. Since Malamud won his case, the IRS has posted some 1.7 million Forms 990 as machine-readable open data.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 5-6, 2016)

November 06, 2016

Your_vote_countsOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

As generational change continues to roil the arts sector, what will the future look like for arts organizations? Emiko Ono, a program officer in the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program, explores that question in the Fall 2016 issue of the GIA (Grantmakers in the Arts) Reader.

Civic Engagement

In a Q&A on the Carnegie Corporation website, the foundation's Geri Mannion and Jay Beckner of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation chat with Carnegie visiting media fellow Gail Ablow about how foundations can support voting rights litigation.

Have American politics ever been so divisive? Or is this year's election simply a case of  plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Regardless of how one feels about the tone and tenor of the 2016 presidential election, it is important to remember, writes Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian, that, throughout our history, we have "managed to avoid allowing ourselves to be manacled by all-powerful overlords or permitting the strength of our democracy to be leeched away by the fear of what the future may bring. That does not mean," he continues, "that we must not constantly be mindful of the importance of preserving our democratic principles and defending the individual freedoms that are the legacy of our founders' trust in the nation they established...."

Fundraising

On her Fired Up Fundraising blog, Gail Perry shares six tips for crowdfunding your way to #GivingTuesday success. But don't wait — this year's #GivingTuesday is November 29. On that day, PND and the Foundation Center will be helping a handful of lucky nonprofits get the word out by sharing our social media feeds. For details, check out this post.

Nonprofits

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, nonprofit veteran Ann-Sophie Morrissette examines five myths that help to perpetuate burnout among nonprofit employees.

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Foundation Transparency: Game Over?

June 16, 2016

Data_unlockedThe tranquil world of America's foundations is about to be shaken, but if you read the Center for Effective Philanthropy's new study — Sharing What Matters, Foundation Transparency — you would never know it.

Don't get me wrong. That study, like everything CEP produces, is carefully researched, insightful, and thoroughly professional. But it misses the single biggest change in foundation transparency in decades: the release by the Internal Revenue Service of foundation 990-PF (and 990) tax returns as machine-readable open data.

Clara Miller, president of the Heron Foundation, writes eloquently in her manifesto Building a Foundation for the 21St Century: "the private foundation model was designed to be protective and separate, much like a terrarium."

Terrariums, of course, are highly "curated" environments over which their creators have complete control. To the extent that much of it consists of interviews with foundation leaders and reviews of their websites — as if transparency were a kind of optional endeavor in which foundations may choose to participate, if at all, and to what degree — the CEP study proves that point.

To be fair, CEP also interviewed the grantees of various foundations (sometimes referred to as "partners"), which helps convey the reality that foundations have stakeholders beyond their four walls. However, the terrarium metaphor is about to become far more relevant as the release of 990 tax returns as open data literally makes it possible for anyone to look right through those glass walls to the curated foundation world within.

What Is Open Data?

It is safe to say that most foundation leaders and a fair majority of their staff do not understand what open data really is. Open data is free, yes, but more importantly it is digital and machine-readable. This means it can be consumed in enormous volumes, at lightning speed, directly by computers.

Once consumed, open data can be tagged, sorted, indexed, and searched using statistical methods to make obvious comparisons while discovering previously undetected correlations. Anyone with a computer, some coding skills, and a hard drive or cloud storage can access open data. In today's world, a lot of people meet those requirements, and they are free to do whatever they please with your information once it is, as open data enthusiasts like to say, "in the wild."

Today, much government data is completely open. Go to data.gov or its equivalent in many countries around the world and see for yourself.

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Isn't Our Research Already Free? Why Open Access Matters for the Social Sector & How You Can Get Involved

October 30, 2015

Open_repositoryLast week individuals and organizations across the globe, including Foundation Center's own open access repository IssueLab, celebrated Open Access Week. This annual event/celebration puts the spotlight on a concept that is of terrific importance to those of us who produce knowledge but also to those of us who rely on it to do our jobs.

According to the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC): " 'Open Access' to information —  the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need  —  has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole."

Many of us who work in the social sector — who fund, produce, use, share, and safeguard research and knowledge about social issues and social change  —  already know that open access is incredibly important. Why? Because we live that last bit about "direct and widespread implications...for society as a whole." We're the people who grapple with social issues that impact all of us, all over the globe, every day. Through our work we research, implement, and share strategies that attempt to eradicate poverty, eliminate hunger, conquer inequality, abolish injustice, and so much more.

Free and immediate access to information about social change strategies, and unfettered use and reuse of the results of that information, just makes sense. It lines up with why we produce knowledge in the first place: to build awareness about tough social problems and the creative and persistent solutions that are making the world a better place.

In the spirit of both Open Access Week and of the purpose and principles that drive us to produce knowledge in the first place, we invite our social sector colleagues to learn more about what open knowledge sharing means for our sector. To get you started, we'll explore two concepts you can implement today: open licensing and open repositories.

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To Strengthen Democracy in America, Think Tech

October 06, 2015

A decade-and-a-half into the digital century, the vast majority of large foundations concerned with strengthening American democracy don't seem to get tech. According to the new Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy tool recently launched by Foundation Center, out of a total of 18,446 grants awarded since 2011 by more than 1,300 funders focused on the broad range of issues and efforts related to democracy, just 962 have been focused on technology.

What's more, that represents only $215 million out of a total of $2.435 billion awarded to study and/or reform campaigns, elections, and voting systems; expand civic participation; research or upgrade government performance; and/or study the workings of the media and improve public access to media. The Foundation Center tool also reveals that the universe of foundations making technology-related grants is much smaller, at 186, than the overall funder pool, as is the recipient base.

Tech_constellations_image

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'BRIDGE' to Somewhere: Progress to Date

November 21, 2013

Technical development of the first Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities (BRIDGE) release is currently about halfway to completion. If you've been following the project, you know that BRIDGE aims to revolutionize data interoperability in the global social sector by uniquely identifying all the world's NGOs in one database. In the post below, BRIDGE project manager Chad McEvoy (cmcevoy@globalgiving.org) checks in with a progress report. The post originally appeared on the Markets for Good site and is reprinted here with permission.

BRIDGE-logo-FinalConsidering its ambitious scope, the project has unfolded as efficiently as we could have hoped for, given that it's dependent on collaboration between four distinct partner organizations -- the Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, GuideStar, and TechSoup Global -- represented by contributing team members on both sides of the Atlantic, who are in turn coordinating with a Polish software development firm, all the while consulting with a technical advisory group composed of six extremely busy specialists and sector thought leaders — themselves spanning three countries. Nonetheless, I am happy to report that the foundation of BRIDGE has been laid and we are making steady progress.

From its inception, BRIDGE has been conceived of as something that will have the potential for unexpected positive outcomes.

Just as no one involved in the creation of Universal Product Codes (UPCs) in the 1970s could have anticipated or planned for the development of the current crop of smart phone scanner apps, we expect BRIDGE to provide a foundation for future innovation, but we don't yet know precisely where that will take us. We know BRIDGE will have far-reaching implications, perhaps revolutionizing philanthropic information-sharing, but we can only begin to imagine the breadth of the project's ultimate impact.

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The Brave New World of Good

October 08, 2013

"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't."
(William Shakespeare)

"Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted."
(Aldous Huxley)

Globe-handsWelcome to the Brave New World of Good. Once almost the exclusive province of nonprofit organizations and the philanthropic foundations that fund them, today the terrain of good is disputed by social entrepreneurs, social enterprises, impact investors, big business, governments, and geeks. Their tools of choice are markets, open data, innovation, hackathons, and disruption. They cross borders, social classes, and paradigms with the swipe of a touch screen. We seem poised to unleash a whole new era of social and environmental progress, accompanied by unimagined economic prosperity.

As a brand, good is unassailably brilliant. Who could be against it? It is virtually impossible to write an even mildly skeptical blog post about good without sounding well, bad -- or at least a bit old-fashioned. For the record, I firmly believe there is much in the brave new world of good that is helping us find our way out of the tired and often failed models of progress and change on which we have for too long relied. Still, there are assumptions worth questioning and questions worth answering to ensure that the good we seek is the good that can be achieved.

Markets

The potential of markets to scale good is undeniable. The most successful nonprofit and foundation efforts can only be replicated in multiple locations, while markets routinely attain regional, national, or even global scale. But even "philanthropic investment firms" like Omidyar Network, which was born out of eBay-inspired market zeal, have added outright grants to nonprofits as an essential part of their change strategy. Perfect markets exist only in economic theory. In the real world, avarice, corruption, politics, and power conspire to exclude minorities of all descriptions from their share of market rewards. Social policy and philanthropy, for all their faults, persist precisely because market booms benefit too few and market busts hurt too many.

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Weekend Link Roundup (August 17-18, 2013)

August 18, 2013

SandcastleOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Rights

On the Library of Congress blog, Erin Allen chats with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), one of the leaders of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, about the fiftieth anniversary of the march.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Peter Buffett's op-ed about the "charitable-industrial complex" in the New York Times a few weeks back continues to generate comment -- supportive (here, here, here, and here) and critical (here, here, here, and here). Writing on the Huff Post business blog, Margaret Coady, executive director of CECP (formerly the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy), characterizes Buffett's musings as "a mix of insightful and simplistic observations," while applauding his warning not to confuse prosperity with "the blind accumulation of material goods." The good news, adds Coady,

is that CEOs of large multinational companies are working on a version of Buffett's challenge. In other words: the very individuals heading up "the industrial complex" assumed by many to be 'the bad guys' are, in their way, laser focused on creating greater prosperity for all.

Don't mistake me. These CEOs are obsessive about bottom-line growth -- which depends on consumerism. But they are awakening to benefits of replacing "quarterly capitalism" (which has led many companies to disregard their negative social and environmental externalities) with "long-term capitalism" (which takes greater responsibility for the effect the company has on the world). Increasingly, these CEOs are committing to sustainable, investor-friendly alternatives to a zero-sum version of capitalism. That doesn't fully meet Peter Buffet's goal, but I'd argue that it is meaningful progress....

Data

It's a widely accepted truism that the era of open data is upon us. But not all data is created equal, and its use, like so many things, is subject to abuse. Writing on the Markets for Good blog, Andy Isaacson, an engineer at Palantir Technologies, argues that with "[open] data comes great responsibility, both to make the information usable, and also to protect the privacy and civil liberties of the people involved." The goal, he adds, "is, or should be, about the democratization of data, allowing anybody on the web to extract, synthesize, and build from raw materials -- and effect change."

Beth Kanter has a useful post on the top ten chart secrets of data nerds.

And while we're on the subject, do you know the seven deadly sins of data analysis? The Whole Whale does, and they include: Pride ("thinking you know better than the data"), Sloth ("being lazy and only analyzing one metric"), and Gluttony ('converting too many data into too many dashboards").

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Announcement: Data Interoperability Grantmaking Challenge

March 04, 2013

Data_interoperabilityThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with Liquidnet for Good, is looking for groundbreaking ideas to help improve data in the social sector.

Data and information are critical tools for making change in our world, but they are tools that are currently difficult to access and use. New data sets are being collected and opened up to the public every day, but for the average donor, nonprofit leader, or community activist with a question or a good idea, it is very hard to make sense of isolated and fragmented data sets. Linking together different kinds of data will ultimately help us get the knowledge we need to inform our decision making and lead to greater social good. The Data Interoperability Grantmaking Challenge seeks creative and bold solutions to this complex but solvable problem.

Applications will be accepted online from March 4 through May 7, 2013, 11:30 AM PST. Each challenge winner will receive a grant of $100,000.

More information can be found at:
http://www.marketsforgood.org/challenge/

For updates on the challenge, subscribe to e-mail updates from Markets for Good or follow #MFGchallenge on Twitter.

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