GuideStar International's Blog

June 27, 2012

Guardian Reports on TechSoup Global/Guardian Charity Data Seminar

Big data, open data, charity reporting and crowdsourcing were the order of the day at the recent Transforming your charity by bringing your data to life seminar that TechSoup Global hosted in collaboration with The Guardian. Today, the Guardian published an article about the seminar in their paper, titled: Getting to Grips with Big Data which gives a report of the seminar. The article focuses on why charities should start using ‘big data’ and ‘open data’ for the benefit of their communities. Also discussed were some of the difficulties charities face in knowing what tools to use, and understanding what data they should provide and collect to save money, be more effective and help the public. Videos of 2 of the speaker presentations are available (the other 2 will be posted next week) and you can find a copy of all presentations below.

Some key highlights:
Marnie Webb, Co-CEO and Paul van Haver, Director of Global Services of TechSoup Global Data Services highlighted the need for charities to help transform the way they engage with and service their community through the use of data. Watch the VIDEO! Presentation: We are “Big Data” (and so can you!)

We are “Big Data” (and so can you!)

View more PowerPoint from GuideStarintl

Dave Coplin, Director of Search, Bing, spoke about how big data is transforming how businesses are making decisions, the way it is being used for the popular Kinect, as well as the privacy issues. Watch the Video! Presentation: Big Data, Machine Learning and You

Karl Wilding of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) spoke of the work that the NCVO is doing to provide charity data and gain insights to the sector. He also spoke of the struggle to find sustainable ways to provide data openly. Presentation: Data @NCVO

Nathaniel Manning, Director of Business Development and Strategy at Ushahidi illustrated how they use crowdsourcing, big data and the opensource tools they have developed to help with disaster relief, political accountability and other development issues. Mobile phones were identified as one of the key ways that data is provided and collected in developing countries. Presentation: Ushahidi: Made in Africa

We are also hosting an international tweetchat on charities and data on Wednesday 27 June to discuss topics from the seminar on 10:00 a.m. Pacific time / 6:00 p.m. British Summer Time (BST). You can follow in our tweetchat room and comment on the article, seminar, presentations and tweetchat on twitter using #npdata.

 

November 21, 2011

Foundations & practice in data visualisation

by Keisha Taylor

As data visualisation becomes mainstream, foundations are also looking at ways to use the data that they have to visually demonstrate their impact. The European Foundation Centre (EFC), in collaboration with TechSoup, held a webinar on Foundations & practice in data visualisation (on 16th November 2011) thanks to a grant by Microsoft Community Affairs.

Cole Nussbaumer, of StorytellingwithData.com covered the basics of infographics and data visualisation concepts. She touched on some key points that not just designers but all interested in using data to communicate should consider when creating and using data visualisations.

The webinar was open to European foundations only. However, it was a great webinar and I’d suggest you look at the video online.

August 3, 2011

Linking Art, Technology, and Data for Online Communications

A host of great speakers were in attendance at the event Public 2.0: Culture, Creativity and Audience in an Era of Information Openness. The free event was held on July 21, 2011, in London. It examined the link between these areas of work and its relevance for communicating today and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the University of Westminster. The event brought together a small gathering journalists, academics, developers, artists, activists, and business people to share ideas, experiences and talk about future possibilities in this space.

Historic Figures Used Data Visualization to Create Change

Florence Nightingale Visualisation

Florence Nightingale was one of the first people to use data to help inform public policy. She discovered that the majority of deaths in the Crimea were due to poor sanitation rather than casualties in battle. She was able to use her Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East to persuade the government of the need for better hygiene in hospitals. John Snow was also able to disprove the theory that cholera was an airborne disease and prove that it was actually caused by contaminated water using a data visualisation.

John Snow Map

Nonprofits have long known the power of images (in particular photos) to gain support for and increase awareness of their work. Today, data visualisation, when done effectively, can provide additional, insightful images. These can also be powerful tools in helping organizations understand needs and influence others with the goal of realising positive social changes in communities.

Diverse Mix of Speakers/Presentations at Event

BBC Data Art, copyright BBC

  • Simon Rogers, Editor of the Guardian Datablog and Datastore gave a great presentation featuring some of the ways in which the paper is using data for reporting. Full datasets are also available for download from the paper’s website. I particularly liked the transparent data model, which shows how the paper processes its data before it is presented as a visualisation.
  • Ian Forrester, Senior Producer at BBC Research & Development, revealed some of the ways that the BBC is emphasising data and social media for reporting, but also examined the patterns and trends that are emerging with the proliferation of data online. He discussed how the ability for individual users to monitor and aggregate their personal data from social media sites and self-tracking devices is leading to the Quantified Self.

    BBC Data Art, copyright BBC

  • The presentation by Drew Helment of Manchester’s Future Everything examined the latest developments at the intersection of art and technology. The group is working with public sector partners to free Greater Manchester’s public data via the DataGM project.
  • The Founder of Furtherfield, Ruth Catlow, also spoke about the need for cross fertilisation of art and technology during her presentation on an open source art world.
  • The showcase of the DataArt project for BBC Data by Harry Robbins of Outlandish Ideas illustrated just how easy it can be to find data with the right interactive visualisations. Do explore! Santiago Ortiz of Bestario’s live demo of the new Impure visualisation software was also interesting.

NGOs Should Visualize Their Data for Greater Impact

Powerful images will forever continue to help nonprofits communicate effectively, so too can data visualisations. Nonprofit communicators need to understand how they can use visualisations to communicate not only internally but also openly with the public. I’d venture that art, data and technology will continue to merge rather than collide. The resulting visualisations and underlying raw data may become a vital means of communications in a globalised world. This is especially true if nonprofits can interact with and question the data visualisations they produce and are presented with.

How can we achieve such data literacy? There’s help!

Most notably, the new Data Without Borders initiative supported by Jake Porway, a data scientist at the New York Times, “seeks to match non-profits in need of data analysis with freelance and pro bono data scientists who can work to help them with data collection, analysis, visualization, or decision support”. Data meetups are also sprouting all over the world to help anyone who wants to learn more about these issues. Find one near you. I look forward to seeing this type of work develop and increase!

July 4, 2011

A Review of the Guardian ACTIVATE Summit (London)

by Dinesh Venkateswaran, Manager – Global Data Acquisitions, TechSoup Global

Guardian’s ACTIVATE is an annual conference that aims to bring together leaders in Media, Government and Technology to activatedly discuss approaches to addressing nagging challenges of the current times (including the grand ones of poverty, dictatorship and natural disaster). This time on 22nd June at King’s Place in London, ACTIVATE’s assemblage of personalities included senior bureaucrats, executives in multilaterals and high-impact entrepreneurs in the social media space, mostly from the western world and Africa, besides others. Being a novice in the Third Sector, my interest in this conference was mainly about the opportunity it gave me to hear leaders in the sector discuss the challenges faced at the grassroots level; the most fundamental problems that people in less favourable environments face and how we could help solve them. However, the surprise was: regardless of the stated topics of panel discussions, the most prominent and recurring theme debated at the conference emerged to be: value of data in ‘saving the world’.

As towering a proposition as that may sound, the data theme seemed the most natural direction that each of the eight or so panel discussions could take; the most fundamental of considerations that united the eminent panellists’ individual professional pursuits. Ironically, it kept me interested in the discussions, and, I believe, helped broaden my perspective of how we could potentially employ data towards triggering social change, great and small. Broadly, the topics discussed included democracy, value of mobile technologies, distribution of power and wealth, transparency in data and governance, profiting from social change projects and access to data and tools. Below are some quotes from the conference:

  • “Connection technologies could and should disrupt and redistribute power… If you are a control freak you are in the wrong century”: Alec Ross, Senior Adviser to US Secretary of State, speaking on Open Governance
  • “(In Africa) the race is on to find what mobiles can do in areas as disparate as public health, governance and education”: Rakesh Rajani, Tweweza, talking about the potential dramatic impact of the mobile phone in Africa in the next five years
  • “Vision is just as important as technology”: Ricken Patel of Awaaz.org talking about how focus on technology many times eclipses the social goal.
  • “It’s not about technology, it’s finally about who uses it and how”: Ken Banks of Kiwanja and the tendency of social media people to get preoccupied with technology.
  • “15% of UK population hasn’t experienced the Internet even once”: Martha Lane Fox, UK Government’s Digital champion, on ‘access to all’ being critical to achieving equality in society.
  • “I freak out hearing people talk about using mobiles for ICT for development in Africa… we in Africa are not different from the rest of the world… we like to buy mobile phones to have fun, talk to friends, listen to music, tweet and connect on Facebook”: Ory Okolloh, Google’s Head of Policy and Government Relations, Africa.
  • “Leadership must be strategic… should enable power in members and facilitate a global impact of highly local activity”: Jeremy Heimans, Purpose, Australia, while he argued that micro payments are a better funding model than plain charity, for social change projects.

Storify has published a summary of tweets from the conference, if you are interested in knowing more of what people said. On the core themes of the conference, many examples of successful social entrepreneurship were presented, including the KickStarter for crowd funding, Jolitics for online activism, Palindrome Advisors to accelerate professional managerial involvement in philanthropy, Beatbullying for empowerment of children, Twaweza’s information brokering for social change in Tanzania, and the MyFarm project that enables about 10k internet denizens collectively run a farm. There was a short and informative film, too, titled Up in Smoke, on sustainable and innovative farming, which I enjoyed very much. The role of technology in these initiatives varied largely, but there was one thing common to them – the huge role of people in powering the initiatives.

Personally, though, the summit helped me realise that we should not only extract and visualise insights from raw data but must also develop the skills needed to tell the stories that need to be told through data. That simply was the lingering message that remains.

May 24, 2011

Data, Data Everywhere — But How Does It Relate to You And Your Work?

By Keisha C Taylor

As Internet and mobile access grows, more data is made open online. It is being used and analyzed by the media, the private sector, governments, and civil society organizations to inform their decisions. Open data, real time data, and linked data are being discussed in many forums. And so are the ways in which governments, civil society organizations, and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) can work with the private sector to benefit the public using the data analysis. Data-related events are highlighting the value of data and are addressing technical, design, political, reliability, validity, and inclusion issues that arise with its disclosure.

An interactive example of data visualisation - OECD Better Life Index © OECD (2011) http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org

Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist, says “The ability to take data — to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it — that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids. Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.”  This post highlights some of the organizations that are involved in this type of work and points to some of the forums discussing this topic.

The European Public Sector Information Platform has a great list of open data events. And for those of you interested in open government data events, have a look at the events calendar that is being updated by the Open Knowledge Foundation. A London-based nonprofit, Open Knowledge Foundation is at the forefront of promoting open knowledge to help citizens and society.

A few of the many notable events are:

These kinds of events, however, still tend to be dominated by the technology geek, statistician, and government official though civil society organizations and other organizations involved in cultural fields are also exploring the potential of using open data. For civil society organizations on the sidelines of this data movement, the everyday media’s use of data for reporting provides a practical demonstration of just how useful it can be. (I would recommend having a look at some really cool videos featured by Stanford on Journalism in the Age of Data.) Many eyes not only provides visualizations but a forum for anyone to upload data and create visualizations and Flowing Data illustrates how designers, programmers, and statisticians are making good use of data . A few practical examples of the use of data for reporting are listed below.

These are just a few of what are arguably limitless examples how data is being used to help us understand our world. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in London recently hosted the workshop “Civil Society 2.0: how open data will change your organisation and what you can do about it,” and the presentations have been made available online. If indeed “Data is the New Oil,” civil society organizations (CSOs) should be learning how to generate, find, and use data to help inform and improve their work. The appropriate use of data can help all CSOs to advance the overall well-being of individuals and their local communities.

April 11, 2011

Enter to Win the European Open Data Challenge

This was first posted on the NetSquared blog

Are you interested in using open data for good in Europe? The Open Data Challenge is designed to encourage interesting ways of reusing public data for the benefit of European citizens.  The competition encourages anyone from programmers to non-technical idea-makers to help create a useful app using public data.

Do you have a great idea? Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Ideas – Anyone can suggest an idea for projects which reuse public information to do something interesting or useful.
  • Apps – Teams of developers can submit working applications which reuse public information.
  • Visualisations – Designers, artists and others can submit interesting or insightful visual representations of public information.
  • Datasets – Public bodies can submit newly opened up datasets, or developers can submit derived datasets which they’ve cleaned up, or linked together

The Open Data Challenge is open between now and June 5. Enter your ideas to win one of several cash prizes!

April 8, 2011

Mobilizing Online Communities in the Face of Disaster: Tips from NetSquared Local Organizers

This post was originally posted on the NetSquared Blog by Alicja Peszkowska, Network Coordinator, Community-Driven Innovation at TechSoup Global

On the 12th of March, one day after the tragic earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan Ichi – Hiroyasu Ichikawa – the NetSquared Local organizer from Tokyo sent an e-mail to our NetSquared Local Organizer listserve asking for the best practices for mobilizing online communities in the time of a disaster. In the weeks that have followed, Ichi’s e-mail provoked a series of responses from all over the world. In this post, we hope to voice many of the tools, resources, and tactics that have been shared, in hopes of encouraging others around the world to get involved with the digital relief efforts.

In response to Ichi, Paula Brantner from the Washington DC Local group suggested taking advantage of the international project called Crisis Commons that sprung into action after the recent Haiti earthquake. Crisis Commons is specifically designed to crowd source the technology needed to leverage communications in the event of a disaster, it helps in finding volunteers and is summing up all of the hand-on actions designed to support the cause.

Amy Sample Ward from the New York group has followed Paula’s e-mail with further suggestions on how and where to aggregate information. One of the online spaces she mentioned was the Google Crisis Response page where you can find the latest information about the crisis as well as make simple donations to the organizations involved in supporting the efforts in Japan. She has also provided the link to the Wikipedia page devoted to the 2011 Tokyo earthquake and tsunami. This resource is an important point of reference for everyone interested in the latest events related to the tragedy, as it has been visited and edited by a lot of people and therefore appears high in the search results.

 

Shufang Tsai from the Taiwan group shared information from one of her community members about an experience with the previous Chilean earthquake that occurred in 2010. The ideas that came from the Chile earthquake experience included setting up a situation map using Ushahidi on the crodmap.com site and asking the volunteers to search through the media news and put them all together in an easily accessible Google Doc. The information could be then added to the Ushahidi map. Other suggestions of the community member in Japan included the usage of the Tweak the Tweet to collect the information from the twitter and facebook. He has also highlighted the importance of keeping the volunteers data saved somewhere (i.e. a Google Doc).

Sarah Schacht from the group that meets in Seattle has put Ichi in touch with the representatives from Crisis Commons and suggested he should list himself at the Honshu Quake Activities @ Crisis Commons wiki. Sarah has also forwarded his information to the Web of Change to attract tech volunteers.

Jonathan Eyler-Werve from the Chicago group added another wiki link to the conversation – the example of how the source has been used to aggregate the information about the Libyan uprising.
Shufang then summed up the online response information and sent links to (among others):

  • Open source disaster management system Sahana (in Japanese language only)

and to various online sources that work with maps such as:

  • ESRI distaster reponse

The next day (13th of March) Ichi sent us the result of this facebook group work (in Japanese language only) as well as a link to the articles he has been writing (in Japanese language only). He also highlighted the importance of learning the lesson from all of the social media crisis responses and planning a long term strategy for the digital curation in case of disaster.

In a response to Ichi JD Lasica from the group in San Francisco shared links to the interviews with Andy Carvin who had been instrumental in setting up the Hurricane Information Center and the subsequent Crisis Camp for Haiti:

Rachel Weidinger from TechSoup Global sent the group links to resources and recovery guides available on the techsoup.org site – Disaster Planning and Recovery Toolkit.

JD Godchaux from NiJel – a community mapping platform seconded Shufangs’ suggestion to work with Crisis Mappers and encouraged Ichi to join the CrisisMappers list. The project was launched locally on March 11th by a Japanese member of the Open Street Map (OSM) community. The crisis map is being supported by onsite volunteers (mainly in Tokyo) along with a group of students (mainly Japanese) out of Boston lead by The Fletcher School. JD also mentioned another instance of Ushahidi to track radiation levels from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The last comment in the threat came from Ichi, who shared the link to the socialmedia dashboard on Netvibes set by him to catch up the current event. Netvibes is a free web site that allows users to set up their own customized start page composed of “modules” which can contain a wide variety of information from dozens and dozens of other sites. It is a great tool to fetch, store and manage various web sources and make the process transparent and easy to access for everyone.

The entire conversation happened within the 72 hours from the Japanese earthquake and wasn’t stopped when the radiation threat became an issue, nor was it paused by the power outage caused by the disaster.  As the Japanese tragedy proves the role of social media in times of a disaster remains a subject of an ongoing conversation. It highlights the importance of connecting with like-minded people to pool the efforts and delegate responsibilities in the times of crisis. We hope that this post will help others who would like to contribute to the relief of the Japanese tragedy and other disasters that will inevitably happen in the future.

Do you have any other tips or tools for Ichi or anyone else who is interested in using the web to provide digital disaster relief? If so, please share your suggestions in the comments below!

February 8, 2011

TechSoup Global: Teaching CSOs About the Cloud

Filed under: civil society,Data visualisation — guidestarinternational @ 09:44
Tags: , ,

This is the first of a three part series about Cloud computing as it relates to civil society organisations (CSOs) by Keisha Taylor, Communications Manager, GuideStar International

Civil Society Organisations are waking up to the benefits of using cloud computing services (the Cloud) for their work. Nevertheless, issues like interoperability, security, privacy and lack of a supportive technology infrastructure persist, leading many CSOs unable to decide if it is right for them.

TechSoup Global is educating CSOs about the value of Cloud computing as well as the problems they may encounter as more and more cloud computing services are introduced to the sector. The TechSoup website and blog contain a lot of useful information about cloud services available to nonprofits and their forum facilitates useful discussion among civil society organisations such as Cloud Computing: Is It More Secure? and Is Cloud Computing Greener?.  Cloud computing services are available from some of the many partners that TechSoup Global works with in countries throughout the world.

Have a look at some blog posts on the issue from the TechSoup blog below.

Jim Lynch, Co-Director of the GreenTech and Electronics Recycling & Reuse Programs at TechSoup says “TechSoup Global is working hard to find out what is and isn’t useful for CSOs as the Cloud descends upon all of us. It’s pretty clear that cloud computing is a major transformation in the way that people will use IT as the use of mobile phones, computers, and Internet converge. To quote Nicholas Carr in his book The Big Switch“What happened to the generation of power a century ago is now happening to the processing of information. Private computer systems, built and operated by individual companies, are being supplanted by services provided over a common grid—the Internet—by centralized data-processing plants. Computing is turning into a utility, and once again the economic equations that determine the way we work and live are being rewritten.”

For those who want to get a more in depth and overarching view of the technical, security, legal, economic, development and environment issues involved in the use of the Cloud, read transcripts from some Cloud computing sessions held at the last Internet Governance Forum. At the Forum, Cloud providers, CSOs, governments, corporations, cloud evangelists and skeptics from around the world gathered to discuss and try to resolve some of the issues involved, in an attempt to ensure sure that cloud computing services develop in an environmentally friendly, secure and interoperable way.

January 26, 2011

GuideStar International seeking a Manager of Global Data Acquisition

Filed under: Access to information,CSO reporting,Data visualisation — guidestarinternational @ 14:24
Tags:

GuideStar International (GSI), a UK-registered charity, seeks a Manager of Global Data Acquisition. This position will be located in GSI’s London office, which focuses on developing and supporting systems that collect, manage, and deliver global data to a wide variety of users.

Based in central London, GSI helps leaders in countries around the world build electronic information systems that aggregate and present timely, comprehensive and accurate information about the work of their civil society organisations (CSOs). Such information generates more confident, generous and discerning decision-making around the work of these vital organisations. Improved decision-making, in turn, enables more vibrant and prosperous civil societies within individual countries and more effective philanthropy and nonprofit practice throughout the world.

In March 2010, GSI combined with TechSoup Global (TSG), a US-based 501(c)3 public charity. TSG helps other nonprofits acquire, understand, and use technology to better serve their missions. Through its product donation service, nonprofits, CSOs, and libraries will find a broad range of software donated by leading tech companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Symantec, Intuit, and Adobe, along with content and community resources targeted specifically at a nonprofit audience.

As a result of this combination, the enterprise is pursuing new initiatives to leverage its combined global network and data management expertise.

This is a fulltime position, and will report to the Chief Executive of GuideStar International. The application deadline is 1st March 2011.   Read more about the position …

November 25, 2010

Using technology to map data and information for development efforts

Filed under: Access to information,civil society,Data visualisation,ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 14:43
Tags: ,

by Keisha Taylor (GSI’s Communications Manager)

This post is cross-posted from the NetSquared Community blog– you can read the original post and any comments here

Maps have emerged as an important asset in publicly revealing data and information needed for development efforts at the community, national, regional and international level. They have become a useful way of providing and finding information on what exists and where.   Private companies like Google for instance have been collaborating with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to help unveil the power of statistics in the region. They have been working with UNECA to provide train the trainer events throughout the African continent, which can aid the development of collection and use of statistics using not only mobile applications but Google Map Maker, Google Earth Google Maps, Google fusion tables, and Public Data Explorer.  This is also proving useful for mapping of the vast African landscape is in the face of lack of street names and route numbers for instance. Local knowledge is key to this type of mapping for development effort.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) are also utilising maps to help aid development efforts. Global Map Aid is one nonprofit that provides specialist maps to help those that need information for aid and environmental relief efforts. InterAction is also developing a web-based mapping platform and database that will eventually map all of its members’ work worldwide. Haiti Aid Map is one example of their work in this area. There is also the Ushahadi, a crowdsourced mapping platform, which provides real time information needed to help with issues related to things like disasters, voting, xenophobic attacks and the environment to name a few.  Taking into consideration that geo-data is not free in some parts of the world Open Street Map is also another useful and free service which allows anyone with the necessary skills to utilise and edit information on their map, and in turn ‘the data and software is owned by the contributors’ and the general public. According to Steve Chilton, “The OpenStreet Map project is the leading global example of the effectiveness of crowdsourcing of geodata”.

Maps are also being used by governments, for example councils in the United Kingdom and in this new e-volution of government data, e-data is becoming more and more important. As Michael Batty, Bartlett Professor of Planning at UCL puts it “The advent of map services from Google Maps and Microsoft Bing Maps, as well as more specialist archives of photographic data constructed from the bottom-up systems such as Flickr, are forcing new kinds of applications in data processing that are no longer the prerogative of specialist users but are widely available to anyone who has access to the web”. Intergovernmental organisations have also started providing mapped data and information on their development finance projects. The World Bank for instance have launched a Data Visualiser, which maps a subset of the United Nation Statistical Division (UNSD) Commodity Trade (COMTRADE) database and the AidData mapping for results project has proved a useful and successful way of geo-referencing development work. Additionally, Aidflows launched in October is another tool developed collaboratively by the OECD and the World Bank (also working on data.worldbank.org) to map the flow of the development aid they provide.

These are some of the mapping tools and projects currently available and as their availability increases hopefully so will the public’s ability to utilise them effectively. CSOs, governments, the private sector and technologists will no doubt increasingly utilise these types of mapping services to inform their work. Hopefully mapping for development and results continues to develop in a way which is useful not only to them, but also inclusive and useful to the ordinary citizen.

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