Data trusts and data trust

Trust and integrity are key to nonprofits. They trade on these virtues. It's no accident that "Trusts" are the name for one type of nonprofit enterprise.  The defining aspect of the nonprofit corporate structure - the non-distribution clause relating to the use of financial assets - codifies the use of financial assets for mission, allowing the public to trust that the organization will be true to its social purpose.

In the 21st Century, nonprofits are going to need to engender that same kind of trust regarding their use of digital assets (otherwise known as digital data).

This is a tremendous opportunity for the sector. Earning and keeping the trust of all (data) donors  could become a defining quality for civil society organizations and help distinguish them from commercial enterprises and public agencies. Currently, many commercial operations and the government are treading lightly on the trust of their customers and constituents. Headlines from just this week:

Uber: "Whose Privacy will Uber Violate Next?"

Class Dojo: "Privacy Concerns for Class Dojo and Other Tracking Apps for Schoolchildren"
Government: Survey: US Adults feel they are losing control of their data
Nonprofits and philanthropy - all of civil society - should be using data in line with their missions and designing their organizational practices and policies with an eye toward earning, keeping, and sustaining the trust of the public. Good digital data governance policies will be key. There are early signs that "data trusts" will emerge as a new type of enterprise - but all civil society organizations should be working to maintain trust regarding data.

No comments: