GuideStar International's Blog

February 14, 2012

Tell Your Story In 1 Minute To Win – TechSoup Global’s Digital Storytelling Challenge is on!

Filed under: civil society — guidestarinternational @ 10:45
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We’d like to invite you or your organisation to participate in our 2012 TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge. We’re in the midst of an exciting challenge with learning opportunities and a chance to submit your one-minute video or five-photo slideshow to win excellent award donations from our partners.

This challenge is open to all social benefit organisations regardless of registered status or location.

How to get involved this year

  • Submit a one-minute video or five-photo slideshow to win prizes
  • Register for our upcoming free webinar on post-production (2/16) with David J. Neff of Lights. Camera. Help.
  • Join us for a tweet chat (2/14) about social sharing to learn how to get your video in front of the eyeballs that matter most to your org
  • Encourage everyone you know to participate! Spread the word:
  • Subscribe to our Google group to stay up to date on all of these exciting happenings

Remember that video is the content people are spending the most time with online these days, and digital stories are a powerful way to share the passion and hard work your organization has for its mission! The video is yours to keep and use after the challenge is over.

What’s your organization’s story? Share it now!


What do you think of when you hear “Open Data?”

Filed under: Access to information — guidestarinternational @ 10:37
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By Keisha Taylor

‘Open Data’ has become the way we refer to data that is easily accessible in the public domain and free for anyone to use in whatever way they want. This open data is most valuable however, when it is not only easy to access but also when it is reused. This post that I wrote for the TechSoup Global blog talks about if using the term open data can actually sometimes discourage rather than encourage reuse of this data by community service organisations and the wider public. Read the post.

January 25, 2012

GuideStar India and UBM India Partner for NGO India 2012

Filed under: giving — guidestarinternational @ 10:51
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GuideStar India has partnered with UBM India, India’s largest trade show organiser to organise NGO India 2012. UBM India is a global business media company that does over 50 exhibitions and conferences every year in India. NGO India 2012 will be held from March 16-18 at Epi Centre, Gurgaon, Delhi.

Exhibiting at NGO India is FREE for all NGOs that meet UBM India’s eligibility criteria which will be verified by GuideStar India. At this 3 day event, 150-200 NGOs would be showcasing their work to over 4000 visitors from corporates, grant makers & NGOs and 5000 visitors from the general public. There would be conferences on good governance, fundraising, PR & communications free of cost for NGOs to connect with experts in these areas.

NGO India 2012 aims to:
  • Raise awareness of NGOs and their work
  • Create opportunities to showcase the good work of NGOs among the public, to facilitate volunteering, fundraising and other positive action
  • Facilitate NGOs of different sizes serving varied communities to network with each other
  • Connect NGOs with experts in good governance, PR & communications and fundraising
  • Provide a platform that will allow NGOs to engage with government and corporate stakeholders

Please go to the GuideStar India website  for details and updates.

January 6, 2012

International Transparency Initiative makes world giving open, shareable, standardized, transparent

By Keisha Taylor

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog

The open data revolution has come to aid’ writes open data advocate Owen Barder (known for his work on development policy), and yet while the US is the world’s largest bilateral donor, Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Index states that five of six US aid agencies are not very transparent. Why does this matter? Because the quality as well as the quantity of international aid is critical to the fate of the developing world (and the developed world’s as well!) and there are significant questions about whether aid is accomplishing its purposes. For example, aid may even be creating dependency rather than development in Africa, according to Dambiso Moyo’s book Dead Aid.

Thus, it is good news that the USA has now agreed to join the International Transparency Initiative (IATI) since that now means 80% of global development finance will be open, shareable, standardized, and transparent. This also complements the US foreign assistance dashboard, which is now available (but still in development).  US government agencies, partner country governments, CSOs and citizens can use it to research and track US foreign assistance investment.

IATI is the result of a conversation started among governments and bi-lateral/multilateral donors at the Paris High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, which resulted in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness in 2005. The Accra Agenda for Action was subsequently formulated to help implement the Declaration, and IATI was established in 2008 to provide support for the Agenda. But an IATI standard for publishing aid was only agreed upon in February 2011. Then, towards the end of last year, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation provided an updated framework that the world’s donors, developing country governments, CSOs, and other aid stakeholders have agreed upon.

Now that America has joined IATI, it could possibly encourage Brazil, Russia, India and China (the “BRIC countries”) and other non-governmental US donors, donor countries, and aid recipient countries to do the same. Indeed BRIC countries, while not IATI signatories, have contributed to the Busan Partnership document.

As the world’s largest bilateral donor ($30 billion annually!), US participation in the movement towards open data, which includes open aid data, may be a gamechanger but only if they really start publishing much more data. On the other hand, open data is in no way an end in itself. If it is not used — and reused — it loses impact.

In my next post, I’ll explain why.

December 29, 2011

New Portal to Promote US Giving to Indian NGOs

Consul General Peter Haas and others listening to GuideStar India CEO, Pushpa Aman Singh speaking at the Roundtable

This was first posted on the GuideStar India blog

GuideStar India and the U.S. Department of State held a “Philanthropy in India Roundtable” on December 21 in Mumbai. Over 40 leaders from the Indian philanthropy sector discussed the creation of a new online portal that will assist private donors seeking to support Indian NGOs.

GuideStar India is an existing portal of fully searchable information on over 1400 registered NGOs in India, and will serve as the platform for the new portal which is designed to connect private U.S. donors with Indian NGOs and organizations. The group agreed that such a portal should also help address two critical needs:
(1) empowering and educating donors by introducing more information and transparency into the sector; and (2) strengthening capacity-building amongst Indian NGOs.

The new portal will aggregate NGO certifications provided by independent third parties and present the information in a format easily searchable and accessible by potential donors. Neither GuideStar nor the U.S. Government will rate or certify NGOs. The portal will empower donors and allow them to make better informed decisions. Indian NGOs, intermediaries, facilitators, foundations and other organizations and individuals involved in philanthropy in India will benefit through enhanced visibility.

The roundtable participants provided input on the design of the portal to GuideStar representatives. The diverse group of leaders gathered at the roundtable reflected the shared desire of the private sector, civil society and the U.S. State Department to explore new and creative ways to support Indian NGOs.

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 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.

Just Do Data

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 09:47
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By Jessica Galeria

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog

(Portland, OR) — “Data is the new oil.” In an otherwise humdrum Closing Keynote address by Nike’s VP of Sustainable Business and Innovation, Hannah Jones, this struck me as rather a provocative statement. She’s trying to incite a hotel lobby full of nonprofiters, philanthropists, MBA students, CSR practioners and other business-minded social entrepreneurs “to be disruptive, to innovate and to create a sustainable new world.”  She wants us to get smarter about how we work for social impact – with data.

Three very full days with 2,600 attendees and 395 speakers at the 2011 Net Impact  (NI) conference – against the über-eco backdrop of Portland, OR – and this is my main take-away:

Data is the sexiest new thing at the intersection of business and social impact.

OK, OK, I concede that data is neither new nor sexy. But it is being leveraged by the social sector in innovative and forward-thinking ways that are grabbing attention on a national scale. Here’s an NI-inspired look at three different objectives and examples of how do-gooders  “do data”:

1.      To efficiently deliver needed products and services

…for instance, in the chaotic aftermath of a natural disaster. Consider NetSquared Mashup Challenge winner Patrick Meir, Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi, who crowdsourced and mapped needs in the critical hours and days after the devastating Haiti earthquake, using free and opensource software developed by his organization.

Or Mercy Corps, which is using a mobile app to get food to people in need in Haiti and Kenya through a mobile money (m-wallet) product. By giving recipients electronic food coupons instead of food, they also drive economic development among local food producers – and they pair the funds with financial literacy training. Phil Oldham, Country Director, is quick to emphasize the double bottom line: in addition to a critical social benefit, the tool streamlines distribution, saving the organization precious time and money.

2.  To crowdsource funding and social innovation

Crowdsourcing actually is kinda sexy – or at least it’s the much-touted “big thing” in technology for social good. To borrow a phrase from X-Prize, the goal is nothing less than “revolution through competition.” Ooh, la la.

Less sexily put, crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model used to source both solutions to social problems and cash to underwrite promising projects.  Examples include Groupon and Facebook Causes  (respectively represented by Kyle Klatt, Manager of Development and Matt Mahan, COO at Net Impact), but also Kickstarter, The Hoop Fund, Global Giving, Citizen Effect, Kiva, our own NetSquared, and the exuberant onrushing player in the tech space, Campus Party, with their Hacking for Something Better (H4SB) initiative… I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

3.  To measure impact for smarter iterations and social enterprise field-building

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, cautions a well-worn business adage. Today, organizations have access to more data than ever, from program results and survey data to site traffic and donations. Yet these mountains of information are really only useful if they spark improvements that further the mission. A panel at Net Impact called “Data-Do-Gooders: Organizations Using Metrics to Rock their Missions” shared how to select the right data, how to share it (with the right people), and how to incorporate it into new and better iterations of the programs using  free tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights.

From a 30,000-foot view, data is also used in spades by social investors and philanthropists for proof-of-concept and to demonstrate social and financial ROI, which has positive spillover for thought leadership in the field. Social investing and social enterprise have rapidly gained traction in the investment landscape, largely because the data has been used to tell a compelling story (i.e. doing well by doing good). The need to facilitate due diligence and provide 501c3 equivalency data for international philanthropy came up repeatedly at NI – thank goodness for initiatives like Great Nonprofits, Charity Navigator, and TSG’s NGOsource and  Guide Star International programs.

Let us now turn our attention back to the green-catered, LEED-certified hotel lobby and Nike’s views on sustainability and innovation. Using a soccer analogy, as is fitting for an exec at the world’s leading sports apparel company, Ms. Jones recounted that Brazilian mega-star Pelé once famously said, “I don’t go where the ball is, I go where the ball is going.”

And I wonder:  is data the ball, or does data point up where the ball is going? Or both?

SAP InnoJam: Innovating for a World Population of 7 Billion

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 09:43
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By Bijan Yaminafshar

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog.

Recently my colleagues at TechSoup Global and I attended a very interesting event at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, sponsored by SAP and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). On October 31 the world population reached 7 billion and UNFPA is leading a global initiative to build awareness around opportunities and challenges of a world of 7 billion people. This requires action insustainability, urbanization, access to health services, and youth education. SAP is the exclusive analytics partner for the campaign. SAP technology solutions help engage with population data to understand the challenges, interact with the data to see how choices impact our future, and explore data to help make better decisions. To get a flavor of this, take a look at the interactive population dashboardswhich were developed using SAP business analytics products. These dashboards will be used by the UN, local governments, economists and NGOs.

About 200 people attended this two-part event. The morning session was an executive roundtable on “Innovating for a World of 7 Billion.” (You can watch the recorded session here.) The panel included:

The afternoon session “SAP InnoJam: Actions to Innovatefor a World of 7 Billion” was a working session that was broken up into several groups. The specific challenge presented to participants was focused on youth empowerment in less-developed countries. The goal: develop solutions to help the youth generate economic benefits through access to education, healthy lifestyles, and employment. We split into 8 teams and developed solutions that were presented back to a panel of judges at the end of the day. Four proposals were selected to move forward for SAP supported Strategic Technical Skilled Volunteer project in 2012.

Before starting the working sessions we were introduced to the concept of Design Thinking, which was to be used in developing our solutions. This methodology for innovation combines creative and analytical approaches using the real world challenge of youth empowerment facing nonprofits, corporations,and government agencies alike. SAP is using these Design Thinking philosophies at their SAP TechEd events around the world.

It was a well-executed and worthwhile event. The morning panel discussion was very good in framing the problem, and I was especially impressed with Dr. Kavita Ramdas’ views (52 minutes in to this recorded session) on how technology is not necessarily a solution in itself, since it can be used for both good and bad. What role do you think technology can play in curbing population growth?

Projects we are watching: OpenDataPhilly

Filed under: Access to information,Access to Public Information — guidestarinternational @ 09:38
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by Keisha Taylor

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global Blog

Nonprofit organisations and the public are at the heart of a new Open Government Data initiative in Philadelphia!. OpenDataPhilly, a catalogue of online data, applications and APIs is now freely available to the public. Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company, Technically Philly, WHYY Newsworks, NPower Pennsylvania, the William Penn Foundation and the City of Philadelphia’s Open Access Philly task force are partnering on this initiative. Collaboration between government, technology companies, nonprofits, the public and inspired techies is prioritised and this is to be commended. Those involved in the project have been building a community of practice around the topic of ‘open data and government transparency’ but also advocating for the release of more and quite varied datasets.

In September the Open Data Race was launched, enabling non-profits to nominate data sets that they believe if released by the City of Philadelphia would further their missions. The general public can vote for their favourite datasets (and the non-profits that nominated them) until 27th October. The Open Data Race partners will work with the City of Philadelphia to release the winning data sets. At the end of the contest, cash prizes will be awarded to the winners. They are also organising hack-a-thons, to encourage civic hackers to build applications with the newly released data. It is a very innovative way of promoting dialogue between nonprofits, government, the public and the technology community to make open data real and useful for all.

This interesting open government data initiative illustrates very well how nonprofits can be encouraged to engage with open government data. According to Robert Cheetham, CEO and President of Azavea. “Several major cities have released open data catalogs over the past few years. But these municipalities all have limited resources and struggle with prioritizing which data sets will be most useful. The Open Data Race is an experiment aimed at both building a community and constituency around open data and open government as well as helping the City to prioritize the inevitably limited resources it can apply to releasing data sets while also delivering social value.” This project is definitely one to watch!

More info can be found here: OpenDataPhilly Invites the Public to Vote for Data to be Released for Non-Profits

September 22, 2011

What is IATI and aidInfoLabs, Who’s involved And What Does This Mean For Civil Society Organisations

This interview was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog.

In this interview Tim Davies, curator of and member of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Working Group on Open Development, and Alexandra Beech, communications officer at aidinfo talk to TechSoup Global about aidInfoLabs and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). IATI was set up in 2008 to make it easier to find, use and compare information about aid spending. Its aims to help implement transparency commitments made at the Accra Agenda for Action, which arose from the March 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. IATI advocates the development of a common standard for reporting aid data to improve development effectiveness. IATI is currently endorsed by 22 partner countries (aid-recipient country governments) and has 20 organisational signatories. Participants, which include foundations, civil society organisations, donor and aid-recipient country governments, bilateral and multilateral organisations have agreed on a common, open, international standard for publishing more, and better, information about aid. Aidinfo set up to enable the sharing of ideas, tools, prototypes and applications that take IATI data and turn it into useful aid information. In this interview, Davies and Beech discuss the ways in which NGOs are involved with IATI and how they can be more involved. They also speak about how data is being analysed and the opportunities, constraints and possibilities for the future of IATI and aidInfoLabs.

1.How have civil society organisations informed the criteria for the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and how should they continue to engage with this?

Alexandra Beech: IATI is a multi-stakeholder initiative and civil society has been an important part of that from its launch in 2008 at the Third Accra High Level Forum (Accra HLF3). Publish What You Fund, Transparency International, the BetterAid Platform, the INGO Accountability Charter and the International Budget Partnership are all part of the IATI decision making body – the Steering Committee. A further 20 or so Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from both North and South are also members of the Technical Advisory Group, which worked over a 2 year period to consult on the content of the Standard, and the detailed consultations that went into putting the Standard together included not only aid-recipient country governments, but also NGOs, with leading European and US CSOs taking part in IATI consultation meetings in Brussels and Washington DC in 2009, and 13 international NGOs joining the 156 regional and national CSOs who took part in regional IATI consultation meetings in the South organised by IBON International.

In the past, the focus has been on civil society as advocates for donor transparency, but in the last year there has been a shift in approach. Now that CSOs are beginning to look at the standards as development providers themselves, a whole new process has started, with the forming of a CSO Working Group under the Technical Advisory Group. This group  will enable CSOs to participate in discussions around data exclusion protocols that are relevant for NGOs, and exploring how the standards can be approached by such organisations wanting to publish information on their own projects.

2. The Development Initiatives Poverty Research (DIPR) is the first and only NGO to publish their data in an IATI compliant format. Thus far DIPR have only published activities funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation though they have a timeframe for making more data. How does such reporting benefit civil society organisations?

Alexandra Beech: Data published in an IATI format can easily be re-used by an organisation for other types of reporting. What’s more, the process of publishing open data can highlight areas where information management systems aren’t working as effectively as they should be. By encouraging staff to begin thinking about transparency and open information when they do their work, the quality and accuracy of data produced initially is likely to increase.

Of great significance also, is the step by the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK recently to stipulate IATI compliance as a requirement for receiving funding. Back in April, DFID required all organisations receiving Programme Partnership Arrangement funding to begin working on publishing their project data in compliance with the IATI standard as of the beginning of financial year 2012/2013. DFID is the only organisation doing this at the moment, but it seems likely that other funding organisations may follow suit. In other words, NGOs publishing IATI compliant data may be a way of showing how accountable they are, and thus increase the chances they have of receiving funding.

3. What has been most important in gaining consensus for IATI?

Alexandra Beech: First, IATI is a voluntary initiative – those who’ve joined are there because they made an initial commitment to the aims and aspirations of the initiative. Second, IATI spent its first year conducting in-depth consultations with users of aid information, especially aid-recipient country governments and CSOs. This has helped IATI gain consensus that the final standard must meet the priority needs identified by stakeholders in aid-recipient countries. Third, IATI has allowed individual signatories to determine their own timetable for implementation, and this level of flexibility has enabled individual donors to move forward at their own pace.

4. How important do you think data visualisations are for understanding the datasets presented in aidInfoLabs?

Tim Davies: Being able to present data in accessible ways is really important. Maps, graphs, and clear visual presentation all help people to get a sense of what a dataset is saying. However, we’re discovering it’s not as simple as putting figures direct from the IATI raw data files into simple Google Charts or other visualisations – we need to do a lot of design work to identify how best to communicate the data accurately and effectively. There are some subtleties in the data, such as the difference between budgets and commitments, or disbursements and expenditure which we need to find ways to communicate to different users (some of whom will know the terminology of aid and how it works; others who might be new to the formal aid reporting world).

We’ve recently been exploring user-centred design process, taking persona and scenarios (See the People section under ‘Inspiration’ on aidInfoLabs) to make sure we have a good understanding of the sorts of visualisations different users might want to see, and working to design some templates and guidance that will help anyone creating visualisations with IATI data.

5. How successful has the ‘people’ section of the aidInfoLab website been so far?

Tim Davies: Generating persona, and trying to share conversations and stories from real users of the data has been really useful in focussing how we’re designing things, and a number of other people have also picked up on the idea of sharing user stories so we hope to include a larger collection of insights into users of aid and development data soon. Creating imagined profiles of users is just one step towards being user-centred in the way we make aid information useful, and it’s not a replacement for direct interaction with users across the world. But as a first step, it’s proving really useful.

6. How are organisations like the Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank and European Commission (IATI signatories) engaging with the initiative?

Alexandra Beech: Becoming a signatory to IATI means showing support to the principles of transparency as laid out at Accra, and agreeing to publish information on their projects in line with the IATI standard. IATI signatories have been involved in the process since the beginning, with CSOs and aid-recipient country governments, deciding on the data that should be published, the form it should be published in and the guidelines around how it should be published. With the agreement of the content of the Standard in February 2011, now signatories are working towards publishing IATI data. We now have 5 signatories publishing IATI data – DFID, The World Bank, The Hewlett Foundation and the Netherlands, and by the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, there should be a further 5 or 6 doing the same.

7. How influential do you think the IATI can be in helping to influence how governments and philanthropists give?

Alexandra Beech: IATI is attempting to increase the effectiveness of aid by encouraging all aid providers (governments, multilaterals, foundations and NGOs) to publish timely, comparable and accessible data on the projects they run. I think the UK Government is a good example of how IATI has helped influence giving, in that their focus lies in the arena of value for money. By publishing all their information proactively, it enables their citizens to hold them to account for the way their tax money is being spent.

Ultimately, if the majority of aid providers start publishing IATI data in a comparable way, it will make it easier to plan aid projects in the long term. For example, if a new donor already had a picture of how many health projects were happening in one particular region/town/village in Uganda, they could plan to start their own projects in a different area that was lacking in health initiatives, and therefore ensure that their aid added real value, maximising their impact.

8. What do you think has been easier than expected to accomplish with IATI and what do you think has taken longer?

Alexandra Beech: It was relatively easy to secure high-level political commitment to IATI at the Accra High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, as there was considerable consensus on the need for action. It took longer than was originally envisaged to move from this initial concept to agreement on the final standard, and then to its implementation by signatories. This is because, as a multi-stakeholder initiative, IATI has had to balance the information demands of aid-recipient country governments and CSOs with what is practically possible to deliver from a donor perspective. Overall, IATI has made remarkable progress over the past three years, and has been identified by a number of key players as a potential building block for the next High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan at the end of November.

Having a well described XML standard for the raw IATI data means we’ve been able to make use of a lot of freely available open source tools to work with the data. A great community is developing around making IATI data accessible, and they’re sharing source code, ideas, tips and tricks and that all makes working with the data a lot easier for everyone.

9. What have you learnt so far with aidInfoLabs and how will it inform your strategy for the coming year?

Tim Davies: We’ve been learning a lot about the need to invest in supporting the community of developers around an open dataset, and the value of actively curating resources that help people get started with the data. Making effective use of IATI data is not trivial, so making sure everyone can get up to speed on what they need to know about working with the data, about making it accessible to real users, and about who else they could collaborate with, has been important.

We’re also finding that a number of the tools and resources being created for working with IATI data, like data aggregators, or code-lists for mapping one dataset to another, are like public goods: they are useful to everyone, but no one individual or organisation is necessarily best placed to run them in the long term. We’re exploring how these prototypes, public goods can become sustainable, and what sort of practical and governance arrangements might be needed for that in the future.

I can’t say all that much about strategies for the coming year, but we’ll certainly be carrying on exploring the learning.

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