Information is power. As we become surrounded by data, as data get counted as are assets, as data access, synthesis, ownership and privacy must be recognized also as issues of fairness, justice, and equity the independent sector should be leading data initiators, educators, users, consumers, and sharers.
We who care about the commons should care about data. We, not business or government, can identify the throughways between personal privacy and aggregated insights and light the way forward. Democracy depends on information and relationships - access to, control over, understanding of, and definitional contribution to the data that shape our collective decisions is key.
Dumping data on people is not accountability, transparency, or effective practice, and big data holds threats as well as promise, injustice as well as insights. Sharing and making sense of data and information as part of seeking change, creativity, and making progress is part of problem solving. Let us not "do data unto" others, rather "let our data, and our generation, use, and sharing of it, define us."
This is the spirit in which I've contributed a two-part blog post series
to the new Markets For Good Initiative
. The first post is online
and pasted in below. Read more at marketsforgood.com
"Solutions to shared social challenges should not be proprietary. To
achieve our social missions we should share what we know – widely,
accessibly, and openly. We should define our work and our enterprises by
our data and data practices.
What would this mean? Data used for and generated by efforts at
improving the human condition should be shared. Investments in
structures that allow for data cleaning, sharing, maintenance and
appropriate use should be fundamental parts of all funding strategies –
as their benefits will rebound to (and beyond) each contributor.
Creative Commons or other open licensing standards should be the default
for research and findings. Open data protocols should be the norm for
data sets developed with philanthropic resources. The best privacy
protocols and attention to human rights protections should be widely
understood, available, and used when needed. Equitable access to
broadband, data analysis and digital skills must be provided. The skills
that are required for using data – assessing credibility, identifying
bias, seeing significance, storytelling – should be part of the sector’s
WE SHOULD SET THE STANDARD FOR USING DATA AS A PUBLIC PURPOSE RESOURCE
We should show business and governments what it means to use data
well and imaginatively to solve problems, vet solutions and protect
individual privacy. We should be encouraging the innovators and “miners”
who can manage huge data sets and see new solutions in them. We should
be nurturing the ethos of hacking for good, encouraging techies, coders,
and public agents to put our data to work in making communities safer,
healthcare more accessible, transportation more reliable, cities
greener, and art more available. We should be willing to experiment and
innovate with mashed-up data sets and stay the course until the efforts
yield new insights, new partnerships, new forms of giving, and new
knowledge about solutions.
Why should we do this? To achieve our goals. We exist to address
shared problems, we should share the resources that can help move us
forward. Data are such a resource.
BUT WE ARE NOWHERE NEAR SUCH A REALITY
Foundations and nonprofits lag far behind both commerce and
government when it comes to using data as assets and resources. The
Markets For Good initiative, with its recommendations on infrastructure,
interoperability, and access is a great start. It details a platform
and set of operating standards by which existing data sources – reports,
compliance documents, grants, and due diligence reviews can be made
visible and useful. It lays the groundwork for better mapping of issues,
shared planning efforts, and potential new ways of working.
To define ourselves by our data we also have to recognize that
Markets for Good is only a start. It will make available data that we
can use, but more important it will set the stage for innovation off of
that data. Let’s look to these markets for the raw materials of change –
just as the National Weather Service fuels the weather channel and
countless weather apps, or federal satellite data unleashed the creation
of the GPS industry and mobile maps, lets not stop at the stage of
collecting, cataloging, opening, and sharing data.
Let us view the Markets for Good initiative as a small step toward a
giant leap in making change. One in which networks of individuals can
crowd fund experiments and link them to sustaining institutions. Where
the data created by a failed foundation investment in a digital news
experiment becomes the raw material for another experiment, one that
might work. Where the lessons learned from hundreds of independently
operated after-school programs can be aggregated and analyzed for all to
use. Where the data trails generated from online giving sites are
re-constituted into “community sensors” that reveal the needs and
strengths of different communities. Where new forms of enterprise and
fiscal sponsorship, peer-based accountability and mobile payment
mechanisms can be created."
…to be continued. Part II of “Let Our Data Define Us" will be posted on October 3rd.