Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Buzzword (buzz tool?) 2009.6 Maps

(Photo by Annie Mole, Flickr Creative Commons license)

(I posted this on July 14 and edited it slightly on July 15, 2009)

In the last few months maps of grant data have started popping up everywhere. Here are a few - launched and in process. I'd appreciate your help in locating more.
  • Philanthropy Insight - shows grant and foundation data from The Foundation Center on easy-to-use map interface. 1.6 million grants and 90,000 foundations - it is a heckuva data set. (Now live, paid subscription needed)
  • Charity Navigator - lets you click on a country to find US based Charity Navigator rated nonprofits doing work there. (Live, free)
  • Changemakers - will be posting maps soon - something more than this world map that lets you find Ashoka items, issues, projects, and competitions by place. (Live, free)
  • SocialActions map - this won the grand prize in the ChangeTheWeb contest and was part of NetSquared also. (Not yet live)
  • GlobalGiving - uses a map interface as one way to find a project (live, free)
  • Kiva - lets you map lenders, lenders can embed maps of their portfolio in their blog or social network page, and KivaFriends have several discussion boards about maps and mapping tools. (Live, Free to Kiva lenders)
  • Tides Center Project Maps (Live, free)
  • Others (please add in the comments section)
This is some distance from where we were in 2007 when maps of change were much harder to come by. Have maps proliferated because we finally have large enough data sets to make mashing them up worthwhile? Have we reached such a point of data overload that any data visualization tool is helpful?

Now that we have them, how will you use them? Do geographic maps of funders or grants data help you do your work better? (If so, I'd love to know what you are doing and how they are helpful). Are geographic maps of raw data the most useful? Do tools like GapMinder - which maps data by time, place and issue - fill the same need in a different way? Fill a different need? Provide a fun distraction but don't really help you do your work?

Can we guess what will come next once we get used to seeing and using data presented in this form? What else do you need? What's next beyond maps...GPS?


Adin said...

Lucy, this a great post and a worthwhile question -- there seems like a great service that could help add multiple dimensions to grants analysis. That said, from conversations going on within the Grants Manager Network community (www.gmnetwork.org) the coding structures of grants at many foundations do not conform to each other. And not all foundations provide their data (either because they have moved beyond the NTEE structure or for other reasons) to the Foundation Center...so were will all the data be housed and accessed?

Lucy Bernholz said...

Added into main text the following map
Tides Center Project Map


Brad Smith said...

When it comes to grants data, mapping allows us to really see it for the first time, warts and all. The agenda for improving the quality of that data includes: 1) being clear about the geographic focus of grants, including the distribution of resources when multiple countries/regions are involved, 2) being clear about the population served (who benefits?) and 3) agreeing on a geographic taxonomy to describe the world (hint: there are at least three U.S. government definitions of Appalachia!). Fortunately, mapping has generated both the interest and the will to take these issues on in a concerted way.

Brad Smith said...

my comment corrected: I said there were at least three different U.S. government definitions of Appalachia. In truth, Foundation Center staff found five different U.S. government definitions of the "Deep South." The point is the same, once we get past countries, states/provinces and cities we, as a field, will have to agree on regions and sub-regions.

Rick Schoff said...

In response to Adin's comments.... the discussion of coding I believe comes with a tacit assumption attached: that choosing how to classify information is an either/or decision. Either we use Structure X or Structure Y. In general, we need to move beyond the either/or. Of course, there does need to be a standard vocabulary for classifying things -but only when it's necessary to aggregate information. When looking at an individual foundation's grants, for example (or the grants of a group of like-minded foundations), one can use a "custom" coding structure. The Foundation Center has long used the NTEE coding structure as the framework for aggregate statistics. That said, our goal now is to be able to present the same information classified using more than one structure, the choice being driven by the purpose. For example, NTEE has the term "global warming" (C28). Foundation A may have a program called "climate change," and this term is used in all the foundation's communications. The Foundation Center needs to be able to make use of either term - one for presenting aggregates and one within a file/report/map to be used by the foundation for its own purposes. This same issue of alternative presentation takes several forms. For instance, to show impact, everyone wants to know where grant dollars were put to work, rather than just where the grantee is located. Technically it's not difficult on a map to toggle back and forth between the two views: grantee location and the geographic area served. However, whereas every grantee has an address, every grant record may not include information about specific areas served. To render a total view of the geographhic areas served (one that will account for all grant dollars), each grant must be coded for it, even if it's a grant of general benefit for the entire world. Another issue to consider - and I hesitate to raise it here because it needs a separate discussion - aggregation requires that a coding scheme be hierarchical.... The Foundation Center will be working directly with the Grant Managers Network (GMN) and others on all the many issues surrounding data standards and taxonomies. And I see that "taxonomy" is the topic of your next buzzword post....

Lucy Bernholz said...

Thanks all for chiming in - it is nice to see here, and in the twitter stream - that there are really smart, informed, expert people (many librarians, and others) working through the hierarchical, multitudinous issues. As is noted above, the purpose of the classification - sorting, aggregating, culling - matters, and we know have technologies that allow us to "have it all."

Mary G said...

There is also an interesting interactive map about foundation giving in response to the economic crisis on the Foundation Center website: http://foundationcenter.org/focus/economy/

Lucy Bernholz said...

I suppose this counts as "comment stealing" but I had to go grab this comment from Clara Miller on the GiveandTake post about this and re-use it here. Attribution accounted for, here is the link

and here is Clara's comment:

"Puhleeze and oh fer heaven’s sakes. Remember when California had the best (OK, NY and California were battling it out for the best) public school system in the (gulp) world? Guess the current residents are too young to benefit, ‘cause a little basic arithmetic would help now. As Patty Stonesifer, ex-President of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (by far the largest U.S. foundation and a great supporter of public education and health services here and around the world) once said during an interview with Independent Sector President Diana Aviv, “if you take the Gates Foundation endowment (not annual giving—the whole, multi-billion dollar tamale), throw in all the money Warren Buffet is expected to contribute and then add a couple of large regional foundations endowments for good measure, we’d have…well…maybe 2/3 to 3/4 of one year of California’s public school budget…” One year of K-12 public school! I can only imagine what the public health, hospitals, indigent and uninsured and similar figures would look like. The cookie monster: gulp, burp…hmmm…what’s for dinner? i.e., going to fund medical, educational and—well—just good ol’ bridges and tunnels public services next year??? hmmmmm. Better get out those Voodoo economics books George Bush the First used to talk about! What should we do? Get our public citizen butts up to Sacramento, Albany, Springfield, Boise, Talahassee and all the rest and start educating our public officials and ourselves. Not to mention, Washington, D.C. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning we also should read up on our Walt Kelly/Pogo wisdom: ‘We have met the enemy and they is us.”"

Lucy Bernholz said...

oops - meant to post that comment to another post. What a lousy borrower I am. Apologies to all, Lucy