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.



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 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.

December 15, 2010

Crowdsourcing: A Value to Nonprofits?

Crowdsourcing the landscape - Beta Version 1, Ross Dawson

By Keisha Taylor, Communications Manager, GuideStar International

This post is cross-posted from the TechSoup blog. You can read the original post and any comments here.

Who can help? Has this been done before? What is the best route? How can this project be sustainable? Crowdsourcing is being used to help find the answers to these and many other questions. According to Wikipedia, “crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.” Organizations are crowdfunding, crowd voting, crowdsourcing jobs, and even crowdsourcing films (see Life in a Day). Presentations illustrating its use have also been made available at this year’s CrowdConf2010.

So Why Should Nonprofits Care?

Though there are both pros and cons to its use, the nonprofit sector can also learn many valuable lessons from the ways that it is already being used. Crowdsourcing is used to gather information, have service needs met, get advice, and save money.  It can also help to inform decisions, demonstrate accountability and inclusiveness, as well as increase publicity. Given the voluntary nature of the nonprofit sector, crowdsourcing creates a host of new and exciting opportunities. According to Peter H. LaMotte of GeniusRocket, “the reality is that nonprofits have been at the forefront of crowdsourcing long before Jeff Howe coined this popular term.”

Have a look at this crowdsourced presentation and read Amy Sample Ward’s blog post Crowdsourcing: Community vs Crowd. There she talks about how nonprofits may be able to benefit from crowdsourcing, while also taking care to highlight when it may not be useful. She also provides some examples of ways that organizations are already using it and gives some tips on how to evaluate its success.

A few of the many examples of organizations using crowdsourcing to help nonprofits and the public include:

  • Ushahadi: This nonprofit technology company develops free, open-source software and uses crowdsourcing to find information which can solve problems related to disasters, voting and the environment to name a few.
  • Crisis Commons: This uses crowdsourcing to help countries in the wake of disasters. In 2010, they helped to mobilise workers and support for the Haiti earthquake, Gulf oil spill, Chilean earthquake, and Pakistan flooding.
  • Kiva: This nonprofit provides micro-loans and uses crowdsourcing for their work. They use a P2P money lending model.
  • Crowdflower: Using crowdsourcng they connect organizations that want to get “labor on demand” with a round-the-clock workforce in 70 countries.
  • Aiddata: Their Wisdom of the Crowd project is utilizing crowdsourcing to provide additional information, which can complement the aid data on their database.
  • Ashoka Changemakers: They utilize an open-source and crowdsourced approach to aid social innovation. This year they partnered with the G20 to help them identify innovative SME finance models in the emerging world.
  • Inspired by crowdsourcing, Microsoft is running an Imagine Cup Solve This programme, which aims to inspire students to help intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and nonprofits solve problems. This year’s theme is
    “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems” and an Imagine Cup competition is being held in 2011 to encourage students to participate.

Organizations are also collaborating to improve the success of crowdsourcing. For example Samasource, Frontline SMS, and Ushahadi worked together with support from the U.S. and Haitian governments to set up a hotline (Mission 4636) to be able receive and translate text messages from mobile phones following the Haitian earthquake this year. This proved essential for Haiti’s earthquake relief efforts and more about this initiative can be read in the article Crowdsourcing Disaster Relief. Crowdsourcing can help to provide valuable information in a cost effective way.

It follows that crowdsourcing can be very valuable to nonprofits, but they must explore ways to make it work best for them.

April 21, 2010

The Growth of an Open Data Movement

Following his involvement in several initiatives to open up government data to the public, Tim Berners-Lee recently gave an update on the ways in which this ‘raw data’ is being utilized by a growing ‘Open Data Movement’. One example he cites is the way in which a mashup of US government data helped a lawyer to influence the outcome of a court case in the US. He also talks about how the use of community generated data helped with the development of the Open Street Map and how volunteers helped to provide much needed information to the map in real time following the earthquake in Haiti this year. The use of this type of data is only just beginning, as Mr. Berners-Lee said ‘We have only just started”. All of civil society has the opportunity to build upon and analyse the data that is increasingly being made available to help improve quality of life not just for themselves and their country but for the rest of the world. Have a look at his presentation on TED.

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