GuideStar International's Blog

March 23, 2012

Tell Us About Your Technology

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 12:20
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ImageTechSoup Global wants to learn more about how your organisation uses traditional and cloud-based technology and about your plans for the future.

Be heard! This is your chance to tell us what you need.  Take our survey – it’s short, only 10 minutes, and intended for anyone who has responsibility for recommending, purchasing or managing IT products or services at an NGO including nonprofits, charities, libraries, foundations or similar organizations. All ranges of IT influencers are invited — from accidental techies to IT directors.

By better understanding the tools you currently use and your future plans, we can work with our partners around the world to provide nonprofits like yours the technology resources they need to operate at their full potential.

The survey closes March 23 so please don’t miss out on your chance to tell us about your IT needs.

What are we doing with the results?

In late spring, we’ll publish a white paper with the survey results detailing the responses of nonprofits based in the United States and in 37 countries around the world. The results will support organisations like yours in making informed IT decisions. They will provide insights into how your peers are using technology and into the currents needs and issues around adopting cloud technologies.

If you’re interested in receiving a report on the survey findings, be sure to provide your email address at the end of the survey. We’ll send you the white paper when it’s finished in late spring and it’ll be available for free on our site.

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November 21, 2011

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?

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 19, 2011

Don’t Be Fooled by Abstract Jargon: Internet Governance and ICT Policy Affect All of Us

Filed under: ICT for Development,internet governance — guidestarinternational @ 14:01
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by Keisha C Taylor

Most civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizens don’t use high-level jargon such as “Internet governance” and “ICT policy.” For them, it’s about having reliable and fast Internet access; accessing health care services via mobile in rural areas; voicing views online without fear of persecution, not having useful services blocked by Internet service providers (ISPs), not being exposed to cyberbullying, or fearing to become a victim of online fraud.

The Internet, and technology as a whole, is so intertwined with day-to-day life that the decisions made by governments and corporations directly impact how we use the Internet and how CSOs work — now and in the future.

International Economic and Policy Stakeholders Recognize the Internet’s Increasing Role

Trends in mobile phones, social media, cloud computing, open data, e-government and e-governance, new applications, and open and developing Internet standards have increased the importance of ICT to multiple actors, which include CSOs. However, with Internet use also come problems such as cybercrime, lack of data privacy, and data security. Influential international economic players have also realised this, and the importance of the Internet to the economy, and have organized several meetings on these issues:

Not convinced yet? Here’s more evidence

The importance of the Internet is recognised in such forums and should not be ignored by the wider civil society that has helped to drive its development so far.

CSOs and Internet Users Need to Get Involved

It is difficult to predict how the Internet will evolve as new services are introduced and more individuals and institutions from remote areas and developing countries come online.

However, as we continue to rely on the Internet for socio-economic development, increasingly for routine tasks, and in some cases survival, it becomes more important for all to improve digital literacy, help others learn how to use technology effectively and better educate ourselves about such policy issues. We also have to engage with other CSOs and other stakeholders on these issues.

Civil society organisations and users should assume a bigger role in ensuring that they inform and influence decisions being made nationally and internationally, and the Internet and related technology can be used to ensure that they do.

June 2, 2010

New Ideas and Experiences in granting and supporting social investment: The ‘strange’ case of Foundazione CRT and its network

Filed under: civil society,Philanthropy — guidestarinternational @ 14:58
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Madhu Anand, Director of the TechSoup Global Network

By Madhu Anand, Director of the TechSoup Global Network

European Foundation Week Session: New Ideas and Experiences in granting and supporting social investment: The ‘strange’ case of Foundazione CRT and its network organised by Fondazione Sviluppo e Crescita-CRT, 1st June 2010

Another approach to grant making and supporting social causes is Venture Philanthropy, also referred to as Social Investing.  It’s a concept that puts greater responsibilities on both the grantor and grantee.  Foundations, at least in Italy, seem to be trying different approaches to grant making.

Foundation CRT, established in 2007 ‘invests’ over 40% of it’s funds in programs that create social value using a diversified set of investment ‘tools’. This includes a real estate fund with social aims (schools, hospitals), a social housing initiative (addressing the problem of housing for the underserved), micro credit, environmental protection, investment in the development of small medium enterprises, and investment in shares of ventures of non-listed companies.  Not really sure how the last 2 fit into ‘social causes’ other than, in its broadest terms, employment creation.

The key elements that determines which organisations get funds are strong engagement, multiyear support, tailored financing, non-financial support, organisational capacity building and performance measurement.  Ireland’s One Foundation follows much the same guidelines when investing in social issues in Ireland and Vietnam.

Interesting bit of information – Irish charities likely to see grants drying up; 2 of the largest Foundations in Ireland are time bound; they will draw down in the next 3 to 5 years.

December 15, 2009

The Growth of CSO Regulation

Worth a read is an article by the One World Trust in this month’s Alliance magazine that describes the array of CSO self-regulatory mechanisms worldwide. It reviews the drivers for self-regulation, the different types of mechanisms and their distribution both by geography and sector. It also considers the challenges facing these initiatives and examines how best to ensure that small CSOs are not left in the cold by standards that they struggle to comply with given their limited resources.  Read the article “The Growth of CSO regulation“.

December 9, 2009

Disrupting Philanthropy?

Filed under: ICT for Development,Philanthropy — guidestarinternational @ 09:07
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Anyone interested in the power of data and technology to drive philanthropy and promote social change, will be interested in this draft paper by Lucy Bernholz and colleagues at the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at the Stanford School of Public Policy. The paper, entitled Disrupting Philanthropy: Technology and the future of the social sector, reviews a range of organisations and initiatives that seek to revolutionise philanthropy through digital technology. The authors will host an invitation-only seminar about the document in February before the final version is published but they are also welcoming comments online.

November 30, 2009

Can CSOs be influencial in building trust?

by Keisha Taylor

Dr. A.H. Rinnoy Kan, Chairman of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands, gave an interesting speech on the Role of civil society in supporting trust in political decision making at a conference on ‘Democracy and Trust’ that is worth a read. How good is trust? Measuring trust and its role for the progress of societies is also an interesting paper recently published by the OECD. Today, citizens want to feel like their opinion matters and they want access to information, which can help them make better decisions. How do CSOs respond to this? Well their role is extremely important, though often underestimated when examining the politics and economics of trust. Trust in the ability of CSOs to deliver can lead more citizens to lend their support by volunteering or/and giving, which may have the knock on effect of contributing to the development of social cohesion and social capital.

November 25, 2009

Google Makes World Bank Data more Discoverable

by Keisha Taylor

Social and economic information is becoming increasingly easy for the public to access and understand and Google seems to be leading the way in this regard. Google is utilising data from the World Bank to display graphs for queries on 17 World Development Indicators through the use of the World Bank’s public API. Have a look at the World Bank Data Visualiser and find out more about what they have been up to! Google has already acquired Gapminder’s Trendalyser software in 2007, which is being used to provide a deeper understanding of development through data visualization. Organizations like the OECD have been using it to bring statistics to life (for example with Factbook Explorer) and the IMF is using such technology to inform the public about the world economic outlook.  However, CSO information also has tremendous potential for helping us better understand socioeconomic progress and it can also be used to help CSOs understand their internal structure for improved efficiency.  Believe it or not, this concept of information visualization in the nonprofit sector is not new.  As far back as 1971, the Union of International Associations (UIA), an international nonprofit based in Belgium, produced a 16mm film, which illustrated the work they did in the field of information visualisation  (worth fast forwarding 4 minutes ahead to see how the data is being visualised – unfortunately there is no dialogue only music!). Today, with modern and easily accessible ICT resources at hand, civil society organisations can now better analyse information about themselves to improve the way they work and serve the public better.

November 24, 2009

Are CSOs the Missing Piece of the Puzzle?

by Keisha Taylor

Is the institutional role of CSOs in the aid effectiveness agenda truly recognised? Should donors and government provide a more enabling environment for CSOs to improve their efficiency? Shouldn’t CSOs be viewed as more than simply an avenue for the delivery of services? These are some of the questions addressed in the paper entitled “The  Missing Piece of the Puzzle: The institutional importance of CSOs in the development effectiveness agenda” as it seeks to explain why such information must be included in any analysis of development effectiveness.

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