GuideStar International's Blog

January 27, 2010

UK Government launches free data site

The UK Government has just launched a data site with the help of Tim Berners Lee (Listen to a him speak about this via podcast), which provides the public with a wealth of information and statistics sourced from government archives. The site, data.gov.uk has 3 times the amount of data than that of the US data.gov site all of which is free to the public for reuse. You can also have a look at other public government data sites on the Guardian website.  Developers can submit apps or visualisations for consideration and the public can submit ideas for data analysis. There is an informative list of FAQs for those of you who would like to use the data or would like to become more involved in the initiative. As government and other data visualization enthusiasts (See the interesting Information is Beautiful site) provide and use such data in creative ways, we urge data on charities to also be considered an important source to build a better understanding of the role these organisations play in promoting better social outcomes and strong communities.

January 20, 2010

Civil Society and Social Outcomes: Towards Correlated Measurement

Equipping individual CSOs, and civil society more broadly, with the means to measure their effectiveness or success is extremely important and much debated. The need for this has given rise to a proliferation of approaches about how such outcome measurement should be pursued. Though GSI does not evaluate or judge the ‘worth’ of CSOs, we do believe that without good quality, public information about their structure and their work, evaluation is skewed with the tendency to judge ‘value’ or ‘effectiveness’ in simplistic terms. CSOs already have a multitude of reporting responsibilities – primarily to regulators and donors. However, this information is usually not made publicly available and this opacity restricts the ability of organisations as well as the communities in which they work, to really learn what works and what doesn’t.

Not only would CSO performance based reporting benefit from greater attention, but so would an analysis of the way in which civil society’s work correlates with outcome measurements by other actors (most notably the public sector).  CSOs play a vital role in the provision of, and advocacy for, improved social services and in many cases provide a counterweight to government. Yet, evaluation of the extent to which they have achieved their goals cannot be done in isolation from government and community reviews.  For instance… did crime rates decrease… did employment increase? It follows that the impact of their programmes should also be evaluated in relation to overall outcomes.

This interview with Hildy Gottlieb gives an interesting insight into this subject in the US context. State of the USA, is also examining the issue in an interesting way as they aim to measure social outcome in the US, online, through the use of quality statistics. An entry in the Social Entrepreneurship blog also illustrates that though necessary, it is quite a challenge! However, arguably, if we are to make progress not only as a sector but as societies, it is absolutely essential.

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