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A Data Strategy for Ontario’s Nonprofit Sector

On Wednesday August 27th, the Ontario Nonprofit Network hosted over two dozen people to discuss an Open Data Strategy for Ontario’s Nonprofit Sector.  We were all sent some material to read and videos to watch prior to the meeting:

The format of the meeting provided participants to share a brief summary of their relevant work underway and offer who they believed was missing from this initial conversation.

I mentioned the work of Creative Commons. In fact in a recent sit down with Ryan Merkely, Executive Director of Creative Commons, he shared the exciting work between Creative Commons and the Open Policy Network. It is “a coalition of organizations and individuals working to support the creation, adoption, and implementation of policies that require that publicly funded resources are openly licensed resources.”

OPN has just announced their first round of 14 global fellows. There is a big opportunity for ONN to ensure that the next OPN Fellow Cohort includes someone from the province.

Over the course of two hours, we covered a lot of ground, focusing on “what are the key components of a non-profit data strategy? What could a future-oriented framework look like?”

We were also asked to take a first stab at defining a future-oriented approach to an Open Data strategy. I chimed in with a few of the following considerations:

First, the entire strategy must be designed using a human-centric approach. Meaning that all data and information that is generated can be parsed and shared using a rigorous and iterative approach. This may sound incredibly hard, but is done in many other industries outside the nonprofit sector. This approach is irrefutable (See note A). Many of the best technology platforms design, test and retool their user-interface and backend infrastructure to keep users on a site to find what they need.

Second, we need a ‘less is more’ approach to data generation to ensure quality control. At present, there is little rigour in what is being generated and how it is shared. Practitioners such as Nate Silver often speak about the problems and opportunities of “the Signal and the Noise.” The implications is that we too often rely on poor data generation and analysis techniques.

Finally, the Open Data Strategy must be paired with ONN’s Labour Force Strategy. With over 600,000 people focused on delivering important services to Ontarians, it has never been more important to build a 21st Century workplace equipped with digital skills. Communicopia conducted the world’s first study on Digital Teams from the perspective of nonprofits. If you haven’t read the findings, it is worth 30 minutes of your time.

In the meantime, GrantBook will be participating in creating personas/archetypes we envision being involved in an Open Data Strategy for Ontario’s Nonprofit Network. #ShareWellAndProsper.

Are you interested in Open Data or Digital strategies? Is so, think about contacting Heather Laird at ONN or signing up for the CXK Conference coming up this fall.

About the author

Anil Patel is the Managing Director at GrantBook, specializing in cloud-based tools for grantmakers and their networks.


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