Thursday, May 27, 2010

Big News in Data

I just got the word - SubsidyScope - an incredibly important project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, has just launched its site on the nonprofit sector. As the site describes it:

"Subsidyscope presents government data and summary statistics on federal spending and subsidies in the nonprofit sector. Our work is organized by type of spending on subsidies, such as direct expenditures, risk transfers and tax expenditures."
This is HUGE - for policymakers (a group that is very busy thinking about the regulations of the sector, both nonprofit and philanthropic); to donors; to activists; to social businesses; to B corporations, L3Cs, and every single entrepreneur I've spoken to (and there have been 8 in the last 4 days here in NYC) who is trying to choose what corporate form (nonprofit, commercial, B corp) to pursue for their enterprise; for taxpayers; and for the public. In other words, this matters.

Pew collected and is making public data on subsidies to the nonprofit sector as part of their larger effort to share information about public subsidies in several walks of life. Are the data perfect? No. Is the system for using it perfect? No. Is it an incredibly important experiment and first step? Absolutely. As I wrote in Blueprint for Philanthropy and Social Innovation: 2010 this kind of data analysis, done in and for the public, is key to understanding how we produce, finance, and distribute social goods. It is one source of data that is changing the "infostructure" of how we give and think about giving. It offers a baseline look that will prove invaluable to advocates for a robust nonprofit sector, advocates for new forms of commercial enterprise devoted to public good, and for scholars.

I can't wait to dive in.

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