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7 posts categorized "Open Data"

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.


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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 ( 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.


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....


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:

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

Weekend Link Roundup (February 2-3, 2013)

February 03, 2013

Super_bowl2013Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


Writing on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Keeping a Close Eye blog, Owen Dunn shares highlights from remarks made by Karen Kelley-Ariwoola at a meeting of the Association of Black Foundation Executives in April 2012. In her remarks, Kelley-Ariwoola, a former vice president of community philanthropy at the Minneapolis Foundaton, describes her work with community groups to address racial equity issues in a region where many white people thrive while "low-income people of color suffer from disparities on every indicator."

In celebration of Black History Month, Center for High Impact Philanthropy program manager Autumn Walden chats with Sherrie Deans, executive director of the Admiral Center, about philanthropy in the African-American community, which, argues Deans, is an "important yet overlooked part of black history."

Gun Violence

Getting Attention's Nancy Schwartz suggests that nonprofit communicators can learn a thing or two from former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Giffords, who was critically wounded by a deranged gunmen at a public event two years ago and has been fighting to recover from her injuries, slowly but clearly articulated her message that the time has come to address gun violence in America. "We must do something," Giffords told committee members. "It will be hard, but...[y]ou must act. Be bold. Be courageous, Americans are counting on you."

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Quote of the Week

  • "The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why...."

    — Mark Twain (1835-1910)

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