GuideStar International's Blog

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!

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June 3, 2010

European Civil Society House Project

Filed under: Access to information,civil society,ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 15:03
Tags: ,

Caroline Neligan, Director of Partnerships and Development, GSI and TSG

By Caroline Caroline Neligan, Director of Partnerships and Development, GSI and TSG

Meeting to discuss the European Civil Society House Project, European Parliament , 2 June 2010

This is a progress report on plans for a ‘European Civil Society House’ in Brussels. The idea is to bridge the gap between EU institutions and citizens. It compares itself to the similar idea of a Foundation House led by the EFC. Inclusivity is a priority in an effort to avoid the sense of Brussels ‘insiders’.

Online resources are planned but there is also a focus on bricks and mortar; a venue for CSOs to meet, work and get information when in Brussels.

While a different focus, this meeting chimed with an interesting conversation I had earlier in the day about the concept of ‘online’ and ‘offline’ networking and capacity building and the role of technology.  Is it a case of bottom up vs top down? That is, will the way that citizens engage with social media drive decision makers to interact with them differently, or do we need to put structures in place that bring these two worlds together? With this question in mind, can the European Civil Society House, both in a building and through the virtual resources it provides, help either directly or through CSOs, to connect the European Union to its 500 million citizens?

I will reserve judgement on this for the time being but it seems to me that there is clearly a debate brewing here that if we don’t proactively seek to connect the ‘digital natives’ with the ‘digital migrants’ (dinosaurs?!) then the gulf between the decision-makers and those in the communities on whose behalf they take these decisions will surely only deepen and widen?

I see a very direct connection to the work that Techsoup Global and GuideStar International are doing with respect to illuminating the work of CSOs and providing them with the technology resources they need to achieve their missions. There is also a huge amount already going on that can support this kind of activity in Europe – the work of telecentres and public libraries, national umbrella networks and ‘contact’ points just being a couple of these. All these groups have been actively involved in Foundation Week and I hope that connections will continue to be made and built upon.

June 2, 2010

Strengthening Europe’s role in advancing children’s rights

By Janet Yao, Executive Assistant, TechSoup Global

European Foundation Week Session: Strengthening Europe’s role in advancing children’s rights – Organised by EFC Children and Youth Interest Group, 1st June 2010

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international convention setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children. As of November 2009, 194 countries have ratified it including all the members of the UN except Somalia and the United States. The policy is currently focused on non discrimination, best interest of the child, survival development (integration into society, health, social service) and children of conflict. By 2011 they hope to create a common framework, create an open method of coordination and develop their 2020 strategy.

Technology has played a key role in connecting peoples and organizations around the world to promote and protect the rights of children. It offers human rights workers and activists new opportunities to promote children’s rights.  The Child Rights Information Network is dedicated to creating a global network, which will coordinate and promote information and action on child rights. The site states that it has more than 2,000 member organizations and allows for searching of information by country, themes, international and national law and lists content multiple languages. Through this network they are able to launch advocacy campaigns and lead international children’s rights coalitions. In addition they are able to provide a variety of strategic “tool kits”, a how to guide for promoting and protecting the rights of children that is invaluable for those that have limited resources.

Another example, is a project developed by Watchlist. This project uses cellular phones and internet technology to facilitate reporting of child rights violations. The cellular technology has allowed organizations to quickly report violations and make decision about verification while avoiding dangerous situations.  Through technology, different stakeholders recognize that they’ll be more effective in promoting and protecting the rights of children by collaborating with peers and stakeholders than going at it alone. In addition, it’s also a platform in which they are able to pilot new technological solutions and possibly scale them to create a bigger impact in strengthening the overall goal of advancing children’s rights.

For a similar topic, check out Amy Sample Ward’s blog for a lively debate on “Is technology really good for human rights?”

Inspiring Entrepreneurship in Europe

Filed under: civil society,Philanthropy — guidestarinternational @ 14:05
Tags: ,

Dara Westling, Vice President, Development, TechSoup Global

European Foundation Week Session: Inspiring Entrepreneurship in Europe organised by Microsoft EMEA and Kauffmann Foundation, 31st May 2010

Incredibly interesting session on enabling greater entrepreneurship in Europe. Panelists representing the corporate, public, foundation and NGO sector presented both the opportunity and challenges of current entrepreneurship policies in Europe not only to create a more competitive Europe and enable growth but to also provide meaningful solutions to serious social problems.

Speakers and panelists identified education, political framework and financing as all being major prohibitors to a thriving entrepreneurial environment. A risk averse orientation is prevalent and can be partially mitigated by entrepreneurship in education that starts as early as primary school and requires traditional learning environments to be more focused on interactive learning and focused on tapping the individual potential of students.

Speakers noted that young entrepreneurs need more than this though because the fear of failure is real in the European context. In US, entrepreneurs are taken seriously if they’ve failed twice. In Europe, the consequence of failing once can be significant and have life-long effects for an entrepreneur. Financial markets tend to be highly segmented and venture capital is limited, though angel investments seem to be growing significantly. For entrepreneurs with NGO status, local tax laws may discourage fee-based services and be unfavorable to their double-bottom line approach. It was an intriguing topic and one that requires much more debate and discussion.

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