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What can data do for philanthropy?

Data for good

Larry McGill

So, on top of everything else, foundations are supposed to compile and maintain data on their activities? And share it with other foundations? And perhaps even make it public? And do all of this willingly, because it will make philanthropy more effective? It is up to foundations to decide whether or not to do this, but it is becoming clearer every day that the answer is being thrust upon them, whether foundations are ready or not.
It is impossible to escape the notion that we have entered the world of ‘Big Data’. The financial industry, corporations, marketing firms, bilateral and multilateral organizations, and even governments are moving proactively to take advantage of information technology that allows data to be rapidly and efficiently collected, processed, organized, accessed, and put into the service of maximizing profits, gathering market intelligence and optimizing the flow of international aid, among other things. More than 300,000 businesses currently subscribe to data services provided by New York-based Bloomberg LP, which has captured a third of what has become a $16 billion financial data market. The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), whose stated objective is to produce analyses and policy recommendations that are ‘independent and evidence-based’, works with 34 member countries to collect and make publicly available real-time data on hundreds of economic, political and social measures.

Larry McGill is vice president for research at the Foundation Center and one of the guest editors for the Alliance special feature ‘What can data do for philanthropy?’ Email ltm@

is philanthropy doing to take advantage of them? Does philanthropy have a plan for building the kind of knowledge base and knowledge tools that will allow it to identify areas of need, emerging trends, key actors and institutions engaging in social investment activities, patterns and gaps in the provision of aid and other types of support, intervention strategies that work and don’t work, and opportunities for collaboration to improve on-the-ground impact? The payoffs of having data Collecting data on philanthropy around the world is no small challenge. As European Foundation Centre (EFC) chief executive Gerry Salole explains in another article in this special feature (see p44), just trying to count the total number of foundations in Europe is ‘an impossible task given the level of differences that exist between foundations within a given European country, not to mention across borders, and the constantly mutating and changing contexts in which they operate’. Moreover, one might fairly ask, how does knowing the total number of foundations in Europe help foundations do their work anyway?

At the same time, calls for ‘opening’ existing proprietary data sets for public consumption have been proliferating, on the theory that independent software developers will be able to build new applications that allow users to access the data in ways that go far beyond any possibilities originally envisioned by the data collectors themselves. In that spirit, the World Bank recently opened up for public access data on more than 8,000 indicators from its massive statistical Supporting advocacy While it may not be relevant to the work of any one database. foundation, it is certainly relevant to foundations colAs these transformative de- lectively. A European Foundation Statute that has the velopments in information potential to facilitate the work of more than 100,000 technology are taking place, what foundations representing total annual expenditures
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of more than 50 billion (a back-of-the-envelope estimate derived from published information on the EFC website), is more likely to pass than a statute that has the potential to facilitate the work of an unknown number of foundations. The work of the EFC and the recently formed Foundation Council of Europe can harness the persuasive power of large numbers only if the numbers For an individual foundation are known. what is most important For market intelligence For an individual foundation, though, what is most important is ‘market intelligence’, to borrow a phrase from business. That means understanding potential constituencies, unmet needs among those constituencies, mechanisms for meeting those needs, and the work of other organizations operating in that market.

business world, though, this does not guarantee impact. Nor does it eliminate risk. Minimizing risk is the only thing that foundations have any power to control. For monitoring and learning Once funds have been expended, there is little that foundations can do to further influence the course that events will take. The ‘market’ will do as it will, as the funds catalyse events, actions and reactions among the constituencies that are touched by the work. But what foundations can do once funds have been released is monitor the work and learn from the consequences generated by it. And that, once again, calls for the collection of data. Just as gathering ‘market intelligence’ on what has been tried and what works is part of the due diligence that foundations must do before developing and implementing their intervention strategies, they owe it to the field to collect and share data on how well their own interventions actually worked, so others can do their due diligence as well. There must be collective learning as well as individual learning. In short, the two most powerful tools foundations have for maximizing the impact of their investments are minimizing risk and drawing lessons from consequences. And both of these require data. Who is collecting data on philanthropy and why? To solve global problems, foundations need global data. Organizations such as the OECD, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the United Nations have developed databases that can help foundations better understand their potential constituencies and their needs. But what kinds of information are available on the activities of foundations themselves? While individual foundations may share some of this information through annual reports, websites and other means, it is impossible to understand the net impact of the work of foundations without engaging in systematic efforts to collect data across foundations in general. The need for this kind of systematic data on foundation activities has become increasingly salient to associations of foundations that seek to develop services to meet their members’ needs. There are more than 100 associations of foundations around the world, most of them organized on a national or regional basis. Most have been around for less than 15 years and are still discovering the best ways to serve their members. Almost all are engaged in collecting member data on a regular basis, sometimes annually, sometimes less often. What are they

Understanding potential constituencies means compiling data on who they are. Where do they live? What do they look like demographically? How do they fit into the larger social, cultural and economic environment in which they are situated?

is ‘market intelligence’, to borrow a phrase from business. That means understanding potential constituencies, unmet needs among those constituencies, mechanisms for meeting those needs, and the work of other organizations operating in that market.

Understanding unmet needs among those constituencies means compiling data on the scope of the problems or issues that disproportionately affect them. How are specific constituencies (eg women, people of colour, rural populations and people with disabilities) affected by these problems or issues? Understanding mechanisms for meeting the needs of constituencies means understanding what types of intervention have been tried and with what levels of success. Understanding the work of other organizations operating in the same ‘market’ means compiling data on the activities of other foundations, as well as bilateral and multilateral organizations that are working on these problems or issues. What are their theories of change? What types of interventions are they engaged in? What organizations on the ground do they work with? How does the work of your foundation fit into this picture? Having access to data in each of these areas minimizes the risk of making poor investment decisions. Put another way, data give foundations their best shot at making a difference through their work. Just as in the

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Data for good

collecting data on? Are they asking the same types of question? Can we learn anything about the work of philanthropy worldwide by merging the data collected across associations?

Chinese foundations, which can be viewed at http:// And recently developed data-driven knowledge tools are starting to transform the way foundations work together. In October 2011, with support from the Hilton Foundation, the Foundation Center launched, a custom web portal that serves as a hub of information and resources for funders working around the world to improve water access, sanitation and hygiene – commonly referred to as ‘WASH’. The site brings together and organizes data from diverse sources, including foundations, the World Bank and the OECD, so the community of funders can more effectively, and collectively, meet this urgent global challenge.

As part of our work with the WINGS Philanthropy Data Network (see p15), we looked at a sample of seven surveys that foundation associations are using to collect data Across seven surveys, how from their members, in Australia, many questions were asked Colombia, Mexico, Minnesota (US), in common by all? The answer Spain, Ukraine and the UK. (We are collecting additional surveys and is one: what geographic will extend this analysis further as area(s) does your foundation additional materials are received.) serve? . . . Clearly, we are a The number of questions asked on long way from systematic each survey ranged from 28 to 55. Through, foundations have free and unrestricted access to a broad set of data-rich Across these seven surveys, how global data collection many questions were asked in com- on foundation activities. resources including: a mapping tool that enables users to interact mon by all? The answer is one: what We cannot yet build a with data on international aid flows, foundation geographic area(s) does your founfunding, and key development indicators; dation serve? Beyond this, six of the comprehensive picture of profiles documenting the WASH strategies of seven surveys asked for the name global philanthropy based on leading foundations; of the foundation and the founda- current data collection efforts. case studies that illustrate the successes and tion’s areas of interest. Five asked challenges of WASH projects around the world; for the foundation’s establishment date, the size of its tools and resources for assessing project staff, and ‘any other comments’. outcomes; and Clearly, we are a long way from systematic global data a searchable archive of research reports collection on foundation activities. We cannot yet recommended by sector leaders. build a comprehensive picture of global philanthropy based on current data collection efforts. There are bright spots, however. In 2010, for example, the China Foundation Center was established in Beijing. In less than two years, the CFC has collected, and made publicly available, data on more than 2,000

Steven Hilton, president and CEO of the Conrad N Hilton Foundation, a leading funder of water issues, expects to ‘play a vital role in promoting effectiveness, increasing collaboration, and facilitating decision making within the donor community. [It] will help bring more visibility to the global water crisis, attract new partners and funders, and fill a key gap in the effort to meet the global WASH challenges.’ Less than a year from the launch of, its early success has spawned initiatives to develop half a dozen new knowledge portals, on topics such as media, sustainable arts organizations and funding for black men and boys. Foundations are quickly discovering that knowledge tools such as WASHfunders. org allow them to be more strategic, enabling them to make data-driven decisions and share peer-to-peer insights much more effectively. Improving data on philanthropy If foundations are to participate fully in the data revolution, they need to overcome the natural tendency to

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Charter, points out that ‘lack of data can lead to ineffective or unsafe delivery of services, poor patient choices and wasted resources. Effective management of health data is a prerequisite to achieve individual treatment and population health management goals, along with those for overall health system performance [emphasis added].’ The Global Health Data Charter articulates a simple yet powerful vision for the development of health data standards (‘Better health data for better health’); a set of principles to guide the development of standards; an action plan that describes the enablers required to ensure the successful implementation of standards; and a picture of the resulting value that data standards will create. A global philanthropy data charter? As foundations and philanthropic associations grapple with these same issues, perhaps it is time for philanthropy to develop its own data charter, laying out in clear terms the ‘vision, principles, enablers, and resulting value’ that underlie a commitment to establishing common data standards for the field. At the same time, the field needs to be aware that a number of emerging models are already gaining traction (such as IATI, the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which has begun integrating data on the work of foundations into its scheme), while many country-specific initiatives are also moving forward at a brisk pace. In short, the will to collect philanthropic data is widespread, and time is short to develop and adopt global data collection standards of maximum utility to philanthropy. But as the field works towards the development of data standards, a final important concern needs to be acknowledged. Standards must not be incompatible with flexibility. Philanthropy, though similar in many respects around the world, is not monolithic. While many of its basic features can be described using standardized categories, it inevitably retains the stamp of the individual organizations and cultures from which it flows, as it should. Yes, this makes the job of developing global data standards more difficult, but it should not be used as an excuse for not building standards or collecting data at all. Just as in the health field, the stakes are much too high for philanthropy to operate without having the best available information at its disposal. Conclusion In a recent blog post, ‘Philanthropy’s Data Dilemma’,1 Foundation Center president Bradford Smith said:
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build and work within systems that serve only their internal needs. When 100 foundations are using 100 idiosyncratic methods to describe and monitor their own work, it is impossible to share learnings across organizations efficiently. And the field as a whole cannot become more effective. Philanthropy is not the only field struggling with these issues. In a domain where the stakes are arguably even higher than in philanthropy, health organizations are coming to grips with the fact that accurate health data are not always available when and where they are needed. A recent manifesto published by the World Economic Forum, called the Global Health Data


focus on what c an data do for phil anthropy?
Data for good

‘Getting foundations into the era of Big Data doesn’t have to be a Herculean challenge. Technology is on our side and stopping doing some things will free up time and resources to do others.’ While he is speaking primarily to an audience of US foundations, the principles he articulates apply to all: 1 STOP trying to be unique. 2 START aligning your data with the outside world. 3 STOP developing custom grants management systems. 4 START going beyond the minimum reporting requirements of tax laws. 5 STOP thinking about data and communications as two separate things. 6 START thinking about data as open. There is a theory of change underlying the recommendation that foundations join the ‘Big Data’ movement. And like all theories of change relating to philanthropy, its goal is to maximize the impact of philanthropic work. We don’t encourage the collection and use of data for data’s sake or even as a way of improving the efficiency of foundation practices, though these goals are fine. At bottom, the ultimate beneficiaries of improved data on philanthropy are, in fact, the very people that foundations are trying to reach through their charitable activities.
1 http://pndblog.typepad. com/pndblog/2012/07/ philanthropys-data-dilemma. html


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A conversation Rosa Gallego and Bradford Smith
In his blog ‘Philanthropy’s Data Dilemma’1 Foundation Center president Bradford Smith argues: ‘The time has come for foundations to start thinking about everything they do as data.’ He goes on to argue that: ‘most of the (increasingly digitized) concept notes, project proposals, progress reports, evaluations, research, and strategy deliberations produced by foundations are unavailable for mining within individual foundations, across the field, or by anyone else interested in understanding philanthropy’s immense contribution to making a better world . . . If, and only if, foundations are willing to create the habits and systems needed to more freely share their information with each other and with others will the industry that is philanthropy fully be able to take advantage of the era of Big Data and all that it promises.’
How is data on philanthropy collected and analysed on each side of the Atlantic? What is collected, what isn’t and why isn’t it? Bradford Smith and Rosa Gallego of Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) compared notes and pondered the need for collaboration between countries and regions in an era when foundations increasingly work across borders. Bradford Smith What is the state of data on philanthropy in Europe, Rosa? Rosa Gallego It’s quite uneven, and this is one of our big challenges. Foundations do collect data, but they often do it very much on an individual basis and don’t think how it could be done collaboratively and in a way that could maximize its use for the sector in general. I am afraid that data collection is not yet a major topic for the majority of the sector. There could be various reasons for this. One is that it is not seen as the tool that will allow foundations to do their work better, but maybe more important is that they see it as too expensive and time-consuming. BS When the project to create the European Foundation Statute was first conceived, the European Union commissioned a study2 which, among other things, had some very interesting estimates of the assets of European foundations and the amount they spend on their programmes every

year. This is the kind of data that the sector needs for policy purposes, but do you think it’s sufficient? RG I think this first attempt shows how much we have to do still. We need data to make society, governments and public administrations aware of the importance of the sector, and to give them a realistic sense of how much we can achieve, for instance in areas from which the state is retreating. Data are also important for the reputation of the sector; it is important that society knows what foundations do. BS I often cite that study to American audiences, and they are amazed that the assets of European foundations are equal to or greater than the assets of American foundations, and that the amount they spend is roughly equivalent. It impresses on them that philanthropy is not just something made in the USA. RG It’s interesting that you say that because I think it has the same effect in Europe. People are often unaware of the strength of the sector and think that philanthropy is much stronger in the States. One of the areas on which we have to work – and DAFNE and the European Foundation Centre are trying to move towards this – is to see European philanthropy as a whole. Most of us have been looking at philanthropy and the foundation sector nationally. If we are to have a European Foundation Statute, if we want a Europe of citizens, we have to be able to prove that philanthropy has a presence and a significance at European level. BS People in philanthropy sometimes think ‘our data will never be good enough, the institutions are too individualistic, the problems are too big, it costs too much money’, so nothing gets collected. But even very simple data like the volume of assets collectively of foundations and the amount spent on their programmes can be illuminating. We are seeing this in other parts of the world too. The China Foundation Centre, which started two years ago, has just begun to collect data from government sources and directly from Chinese foundations. They have collected data on roughly 2,500 foundations. When you tell people that there are 2,500 foundations in China, they’re amazed, because people don’t think of any foundations in China. Another interesting point: over a third of those foundations have websites, whereas a Foundation Center survey in the US found that only 26 per cent of US foundations have websites. If you tell American foundations that, it makes them think about their own sector, and that they need to improve. RG What kind of data are available about the work of US foundations and how is it collected?

Rosa Gallego is chair of DAFNE and deputy director of the Spanish Association of Foundations. Email rgallego@

Bradford Smith is president of the Foundation Center. Email bks@

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A conversation: Rosa Gallego and Bradford Smith

BS In one way, it’s easier because the US is a single country, not a union of countries like Europe. All US foundations have to submit a tax document called a 990 PF (private foundation) and it has to be available for public inspection. The Foundation Center gets these documents in bulk from the Internal Revenue Service and can produce data from them. The downside is that this is a ‘How are we going to compliance document, not a data represent the sector if collection instrument, so it has its we cannot tell society weaknesses as a data source.

or governments what The other problem is that there’s tremendous variation in the the sector does and how way foundations complete this it does it?’ document. In the US, everyone Rosa Gallego thinks of the big professional foundations – Ford, Rockefeller, Mott, Gates. But in a survey we did of a representative sample of 11,000 foundations, 76 per cent had four staff or fewer, and, as I mentioned earlier, only 26 per cent had websites. There are thousands of foundations that are simply a husband and wife and an accountant. Some of these documents are filled out in pencil, whereas the Gates Foundation is filing theirs electronically.
Interestingly, the IRS sends these forms to us in image form, requiring that they must all be converted into a form which we can load into a database. Foundations are supposed to attach a list of all the grants they make – the organizations they made them to, the amount and the purpose. Sometimes they don’t put the purpose, or they misspell the name of the organization or put an acronym instead; all this means that the data have to be cleaned. But the fact remains that there is a basic data source about the sector, which is a huge asset. RG Absolutely. In Spain, one of the barriers is that, although foundations have to submit their annual accounts to the supervising authority, there is not yet a standard form for providing that information – but we are working on it and we hope there will be one next year. However, it will not be in electronic form, so we will have to do the same work that you do to extract the data from the document, and we don’t have enough resources for this. Perhaps because of that, we only consider a small number of items, like income, expenditure and assets. We don’t, for instance, try to ascertain whether the source of the income is public or private, or whether it’s regular. Another source of data is to ask foundations directly, which we also do.

BS As you mentioned, philanthropic institutions are all quite individualistic, and a field that is made up of individualistic institutions often thinks of itself as unique. People in philanthropy have this myth about the private sector that everything is very organized and efficient, but we’ve been talking with Bloomberg LP and they tell us that they have similar challenges. We have people actually sitting reading tax returns, hand-copying information and keying in data, and they have the same thing in the corporate sector! So we shouldn’t let the obstacles be a reason not to do things. The other thing is that technology is getting better, so the problems of automatic scanning and coding will gradually be solved, and it will become cheaper to do this. RG I think we as representative organizations have a role in convincing our members about the importance of data. How are we going to represent the sector if we cannot tell society or governments what the sector does and how it does it? If foundations have come together in a platform, like the Spanish Association of Foundations, or any other national or supranational association, it is because they feel that working together will make it easier to defend the interests of the sector, but of course we can do that only if the data are there. We can be very good at making proposals on how to improve the legal environment or the fiscal framework, but we will be able to achieve those goals only if we can demonstrate the importance of those changes. BS It’s getting easier to show people the value of data because of data visualization. Virtually everyone in our sector uses some kind of mapping application on their mobile device. They probably pick restaurants or go to movies using software that rates and visualizes things. There are vast amounts of data behind this, but it is presented to them in a way that solves, very simply, a need they have. I think we could do a lot more with data visualization in our sector. Even just by using an interactive map that shows where foundations are located in a country, by province or by city, and showing the assets, the volume of programmes and the types of programmes. There are ways in which we can make this data come to life so that people will begin to see it as useful. RG You are very much the avant garde in this respect, and we all need to be thankful for the fact that the Foundation Center has decided to reach out and work in other areas of the world. And WINGS will help to spread those advances in data collection, and

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A conversation: Rosa Gallego and Bradford Smith


particularly in data visualization, in other countries. We are not as advanced as you, and we never will be, because it is not our main activity, but by cooperating with you and WINGS, we will benefit from your work and tools, and it will be easier to show foundations in the different European countries the importance of data.

on issues like immigration, or disability rights, or whatever, that have engaged in collecting and sharing information. RG Yes, these are good examples of the importance of collecting data. It is interesting to look back at the work of some of these foundations and to recognize, for instance, the improvements in legal status for certain groups, like disability groups, that have been achieved over the past few decades. When you talk to them, they always cite the data that support those improvements. These examples also provide a way to encourage foundations to work towards policies beside the individual projects they might be working on. BS Examples of this are occurring across borders in Europe. There is a project we have been involved in with the International Human Rights Funders Group and Ariadne, the European association of human rights funders. Its aim is to collect data to understand the level of human rights philanthropy and the trends within it: by region, by different kinds of rights, by sub-issues. It has been incredibly interesting. Both European and American foundations, and some in other parts of the world, have been very willing to provide data because they want to be able to say ‘this is what philanthropy is doing around the world for human rights’ and to see the advances and changes. I’d add one caution. When some foundations think of data, they think of it as being provided by the people they support rather than themselves. They need to make sure they have the ability to use all the data their partners collect, because collecting it is a lot of work for them. RG As a last word, I’d like to add that we at DAFNE are very happy to be part of this pilot of cooperation between the Foundation Center and WINGS. We eagerly await some feedback on the information we are passing on to you. We are always delighted to see it presented it to us in a totally different form; it makes us think in different ways. It is a very interesting adventure! BS Yes, the same goes for us. Transatlantic and global collaboration is the future of our field. It’s a really exciting time to be working in philanthropy and research and data. When it comes to data, the glass is half full.
1 http://pndblog.typepad. com/pndblog/2012/07/ philanthropys-data-dilemma. html 2 internal_market/company/ eufoundation/index_en.htm

‘It’s a really exciting time to BS As is often said, we live in a networked world and be working in philanthropy organizations need to develop and research and data. a networked style of thinking. When it comes to data, the Basically we work across borders and across fields, using glass is half full.’ the comparative advantages Bradford Smith and strengths of different organizations to contribute to the social good. The relationship that the Foundation Center has with WINGS, and the relationship that WINGS has with DAFNE and DAFNE’s members, for example, mark the beginning of thinking more like a network and adding up the strengths and capabilities of our different organizations. The Foundation Center is not a membership organization, so we aren’t representative in the way that you are. What we’re good at is data collection and data visualization.
WINGS was a tremendously visionary idea, created before anyone imagined that something like it would be necessary. It was based on the idea that philanthropy is global, that there are support organizations everywhere that make it better and defend the sector, and that these support organizations could achieve a lot by sharing their experience and building on each other’s strengths. The challenge now is how to take advantage of this wonderful organization and help it to live up to its potential, especially in this area of data. WINGS has the structure and the potential to talk to organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and say ‘here’s what philanthropy is doing in Asia, or globally’, because increasingly people want to know. RG This is a bit like what I was talking about before, in Europe. We need to have a picture of philanthropy at European level and in each of our countries, because we want to be able to show the strength of the whole continent in philanthropy. BS You mentioned that some foundations are collecting data in a given sector or on a given issue. It’s important to recognize that there are groups of foundations that have decided to work together
See p15 for information about the WINGS Philanthropy Data Network, a new collaboration between the Foundation Center and WINGS.

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Data for what?

Maria Chertok

As I see it, the key tension when it comes to data is between the general desire to have data about everything in all possible detail and its ultimate usability. The most popular generic project idea in data development is creating a database and making it available online for everyone’s use. I come across projects like this in different philanthropy-related areas every other month. Their creators sincerely believe that a database will foster transparency and cooperation, help to avoid duplication, and generally solve pretty well all the problems of the sector. I am not so sure.
There is this widely known saying: ‘When you’ve seen one foundation – you’ve seen one foundation.’ The greatest difficulty for collecting data about foundations is that they are all so different that generalizations hardly work. I am part of a Russian Donors Forum working group that is developing a framework for mapping Russian foundations so as to have reliable data about the philanthropic sector in Russia. To come up with a universal questionnaire, we had to abandon a lot of important details: either the questions were not sufficiently widely applicable or we knew that foundations would not be able to provide the information for technical reasons or the information would not be comparable. But details are important! So when we collect data and present them in an aggregated form or according to a general standard, we may end up with ‘average temperature in a hospital’, losing important details or losing the point altogether. A classic example: there is no standard framework for foundations’ financial management information, so asking how much they spend on grants, their own programmes and administration will produce non-comparable data – foundations simply count differently. And this is not just a Russian problem. I once did a quick review of annual reports of a few large US and European foundations with the same question about their budgets in mind and ended up with lots of line items and figures that were as different as apples and oranges. We should be particularly aware of these limitations where data are presented to the public. In many countries, Russia included, public awareness about philanthropy is limited and charities and foundations are often not trusted. All too easily the public may see in our data something completely different from what we intended. Data for public use therefore need a lot of context and interpretation to ensure that

what they present is a true reflection of a particular aspect of the sector. Otherwise we run the risk of being misunderstood or misinterpreted. I am not advocating secretiveness, but we should be conscious of the audiences for which data are intended and frame them accordingly. I also think that data we produce for the public should be simple and self-explanatory. We badly need more of this kind of basic data for our own community too. How many foundations are there? How much do they give annually? How many people benefit from their grants and programmes? Data like these can raise public awareness and promote public debate about philanthropy. My experience is that the best way of collecting and presenting data for this purpose is through indexes and ratings. A fairly simple Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index produces more media references than anything we have done in Russia in the last 18 years! I see three major benefits in such indexes: they answer a basic framing question (how many people give to charity in the world?), they present very easy-to-read trends (our country is doing better from year to year) and they are comparative (we are doing better than our neighbours). This is attractive for the media and understandable to the public. An additional value of indexes and ratings may be in setting up targets for government policy. For example, the Russian government has made strides to improve Russia’s position in the World Bank’s Doing Business index. The great disadvantage of indexes is that they reduce complex ideas to very basic figures, and their methodology is usually criticized by research specialists. But they are good for giving vivid snapshots that invite interpretation and discussion, and they provide an opportunity to introduce details to the public that they would otherwise not be prepared to digest. Some philanthropy professionals badly need complex data to facilitate professional exchange, partnerships, learning and sharing. Many more people, including foundations’ constituencies and regulators, need simple data that can help them to understand what our sector is really about. If I had to choose how to deploy my limited resources, I would go for the latter.

Maria Chertok is director of CAF Russia. Email mchertok@cafrussia. ru

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Three cautions about data

Luc Tayart de Borms

Alliance’s making the issue of data central to this edition is very timely. Few people will doubt or question the importance of data in our professional context. I am sure this ‘new asset class’ will be in the centre of discussions in the philanthropic sector for the next few years. As is often the case, though, when a new item is put on the agenda, there is a danger of overpromising. Let me just counterbalance some of what is written here with three warning flags, each under the heading of a quote of Einstein.
‘Perfection of the means and confusion of the ends seem to characterize our age’ So that we don’t have more and more surveys dropping into our mailbox, it is vital that we reflect in advance on the use and added value of the data being gathered. Data gathering is expensive in terms of both budget and time allocation. It is important that everyone in the sector grasps this and uses data gathering carefully, avoiding overdose and mindful of budgetary trade-offs. The danger is that surveys ask for too much data, forgetting that in reality only a few are needed for advocacy and policy purposes. It is also easy to forget that data are often relevant only if one can compare them year by year. This means that data gathering needs to be structurally embedded in an organization and that the budget needs to be guaranteed for more than just a one-off exercise.

just at US grantmaking foundations and not operating foundations, whereas for European foundations both were taken into account because there are no legal distinctions in Europe between operating and grantmaking foundations. This example shows that focusing on global data can sometimes become an intergalactic exercise and that the added value has to be carefully looked at. It is easy to talk of data-driven knowledge but knowledge is not a construct of accumulated data. In systems thinking, a distinction is made between soft and hard approaches and both are relevant. The hard system thinkers develop models of a part of the world. Soft system thinkers are aware that an objective representation of reality is not possible and that the observer is also a factor. Without making things too complicated, it seems that pragmatically speaking one cannot rely on only one approach. ‘Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be’ Data gathering is a time-consuming and expensive exercise and there is a risk that smaller charities and foundations will be confronted with a kind of digital divide because they do not have the staff or the budget to compile and maintain data on their activities.

Luc Tayart de Borms is managing director of King Baudouin Foundation. Email TAYARTdeBORMS.L@

On top of that, some move too quickly from the idea of data providing transparent information on charities and foundations towards the idea of a tool for benchmarking and labelling based on this data gathering. As I’ve mentioned, reality is too complex to be based on quantitative data only. People who want to use quality labels have of course their own value systems. To make those quality labels and benchmarks credible, Along the same lines, if one pleads for transparency it is essential that they are constructed involving all in the foundation sector, there should be an agree- the stakeholders, especially those who will be judged: ment about what really matters in this debate. We charities, foundations and associations. Foundations should avoid creating ‘transparency about trivial and charities don’t exist in a vacuum; they are embedmatters’, as Phil Buchanan of the Center for Effective ded in a community, small or large. Philanthropy has put it. In flying these warning flags, I don’t want to underplay ‘Information is not knowledge’ It is of course a no-brainer to say that using data can simplify reality by looking at it through a specific lens. This can of course be very useful as long as we remain conscious of it. Data have to be put in a context and the real story of foundations is in the details. Some years ago a European Commission study stated that European foundations were bigger in terms of endowment and expenditure than their US counterparts. This made sense only because the study looked the importance of data gathering in the foundation sector. Other warning flags could be added, too. This should not stop us investing in this new ‘unnatural resource’, but in dealing with our challenges, we have to accept their complexity.

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Data-first philanthropy

Lucy Bernholz

Once upon a time we used paper maps to plan our road trips. Then came GPS systems, which were at first installed only in the most expensive cars. Then GPS became commonplace and even came in our phones. Now, many of us enter an address, get behind the wheel, and follow turn-by-turn directions presented to us by an ever-patient, automated voice coming from the dashboard.

Lucy Bernholz is managing director of Arabella Advisors and author of the award-winning blog philanthropy2173. com. She is a guest editor for the Alliance special feature ‘What can data do for philanthropy?’ Email lucy@lucybernholz. com

Some of us might impose our own preferences on the GPS, setting it to avoid highways or stay off private roads. Others will simply ignore part of the directions, allowing ‘her’ to keep ‘recalculating route’ until we get past the part of the trip where we already know how we want to go. Fewer and fewer of us are actually unfolding a map, tracing different possibilities with their ‘most emailed articles’. All of this is changing our fingers, and pulling over to the side of the road not just business models but what gets written, what to choose an alternative route when the scenery gets gets read, and what gets talked about. boring. Medical research is another example. For centuries That’s what data have done to driving. We’ve subtly we’ve relied on the ‘scientific method’ of hypothesis shifted our role from route planner to direction fol- – experiment – analysis – hypothesis. Now, massive lower. Most of us are happy with this change – we get data sets of diagnostic information, chemical trials, where we wanted to go with fewer headaches (and we tissue registries and patients’ testimonies are being never have to try to refold the map). combined and mined and algorithms are being used to search for patterns before any kind of hypothesis is When data become the GPS of our philanthropy . . . Imagine what philanthropy and social investing generated. Drugs designed for one disease may fail diswill look like when they really get built around data. mally in their original sphere but be a breakthrough There’s been great discussion and progress made in success in an otherwise unrelated field. Not only are using data in philanthropy, and this edition of Alliance the resulting pharmaceutical protocols different, the gives plenty of examples, tools and discussion about whole scientific method is changing. the pros and cons. But we’re still at the stage of adding data to existing practices. We haven’t yet started to see new practices emerge out of existing data. When that starts to happen, when data become the GPS of our philanthropy, we’ll see some big changes just as we have in other fields. Drawing from and contributing to a common store When we try to imagine what data will mean for philanthropy, we need to switch the order of things. We’re coming from an age in which discrete philanthropic preferences have trumped shared action. In the age of data, collective sets of information will come first and Here are two quick analogies. Publishing is being re- individual philanthropists will tap into it. In the fumade by data. Authors are going straight to readers ture there will be treasure troves of accessible, usable via online publishing platforms that focus on search data on everything from poverty to illness, cultural engine optimization, integrate video and audio into performance to environmental indicators, child weltexts, re-size long articles and publish them as ‘singles’. fare to human rights, commodities prices to market Stories sell for 99 cents. Online sales offer incredible locations. Anyone with a mobile phone will be able data on readers, where and who they are, how they to tap into these. Individuals will be able to use this found the article, where they went next. News organi- information to find opportunities for volunteering, zations and other online publishers proudly promote giving or investing. They will contribute to these data

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sets with location-based check-ins and social network status updates. Institutions will be able to combine and visualize subsets of these data according to their own stated interests, slicing, dicing, recombining and contributing their findings back to the shared storehouses. From within these commonly shared, curated and cleaned, and constantly updated storehouses of bits and bytes, Imagine what philanthropy philanthropic institutions will and social investing will look pull down what they need, query and model according to their inter- like when they really get built ests, and automatically share again around data. We haven’t yet for others to consume. started to see new practices Similarly, data on impact investing, emerge out of existing data. public funding, corporate social responsibility contributions and When that starts to happen, philanthropic giving will be avail- when data become the GPS able, comparable and mixable. of our philanthropy, we’ll see Mapping revenue flows by issue, geography, intent and source will some big changes just as we be an easy first step before plan- have in other fields. ning one’s resource allocation. Even before this has happened we can see how readily available data ease the creation of shared metrics and thus make possible the comparisons and exchanges necessary for impact investing. What will happen when turning to data first is the natural first step in all private resource allocation? When working from shared data becomes as much second nature as typing an address into the GPS, we will start to see real change in philanthropic practice. In the world of online data Passion and personal interests won’t disappear – they will just operate in a different environment. Abundant, accessible and meaningful data aren’t going to change human nature, but they may well change reporting requirements, expectations of success and ease of joint action. Which may well, in time, shift patterns of human behaviour about giving time, money and expertise. In the world of online data, information and money take the same form (electronic bits) so it’s easier to imagine individual donors piggybacking on the research of big funders while also crowdfunding discrete projects as a habit, not just as a special event. Flash mobs of ‘doers’ and ‘donors’ who can find each other and the information they need with their mobile phones (which now outnumber people on the planet) will come together, make something happen, and move on to the next network. We may make institutions of

these kinds of relationships and invent new forms of governance to demonstrate their reliability or hold others accountable. Privacy concerns about personal data will have already changed laws and corporate practice so that each of us knows we own our data in the same way we own our clothes. We might lend the data on a one-time basis for economic research or donate it in perpetuity to science, making data a philanthropic asset as well as an input and output. Finally, we may recognize the public value of philanthropically funded data, and change our regulations to value the data and access to them. No longer will we discuss philanthropy first and foremost in terms of dollars donated but we will also consider wisdom and knowledge generated. The discussions philanthropy needs to have Not everything about the digital data future is good or even better than what we have now. Nor will data, any more than any other technological innovation, be distributed evenly or be free from abuse. The challenges and problems of big data are as big as the data themselves. And so too are the opportunities. The truth is, we don’t know what it means to live in a world where information about us, in ever finer particles, is stored for ever longer periods of times by ever more distant enterprises. I don’t know when this future will come but I do know this – people who have grown up with digital data – massive, connected, searchable, mixable, always available data – are going to shape the philanthropic fortunes and practices of this century. The discussions about ownership, privacy, governance, borders, security and innovation that are taking place now in industries like publishing, at multilateral organizations like the World Bank, and among governments from Brazil to Kenya, are the very same ones that philanthropy needs to have.

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It’s not just what you know, it’s how you use it
Andrew Milner As part of the special feature on data, Alliance convened a virtual roundtable of philanthropy associations and support groups from around the world to get an idea of what information the sector collects about itself in different places. What do we know and what don’t we know? What could more or better information enable us to do? And, if we aren’t collecting and sharing the data we need, what’s stopping us?
Andrew Milner is Alliance associate editor. Email am@ andrewmilner.

Who collects what and why? On the face of it, the organizations represented by the various respondents already collect a formidable amount of information. WINGS, says Helena Monteiro, collects data on grantmaker support organizations and community foundations worldwide. The Africa Grantmakers Affinity Group (AGAG), says Niamani Mutima, collects ‘basic information about the Africa funding portfolio of our members and other Africa grantmakers’. The information is used ‘in various ways to elevate Africa’s profile within the philanthropic community. On a broad level, it is used to paint a snapshot of the landscape of grantmaking by private foundations.’ The Council on Foundations in the US, says Mark Bolgiano, ‘collects data on what connects people and organizations in topical, local, regional, national and global networks so that we can bring them together to do great things collectively that would be difficult or impossible to do individually.’ This already gives a clue to one virtue of data which most of our respondents cited: its use in facilitating collaboration – of which more below.

Gerry Salole at the European Foundation Centre (EFC) notes a change over the last years in the kinds of information the EFC collects. ‘In the past, our focus was putting a figure on the size, scope and financial footprint of the sector in Europe, while also collecting anecdotal examples of the type of projects and programmes our members were supporting.’ Given the state of data on the field at the time, he says, that was entirely appropriate. Now he sees two changes which betoken for him the European foundation sector’s coming of age. One is a trend towards ‘a deeper understanding of foundations’ contribution in specific thematic areas’. In this regard he cites recent studies on supporting women’s issues, commissioned by Mama Cash, and on the environment, commissioned by the European Environmental Funders’ Group. The second sign of maturity is ‘the growing interest in qualitative data and in better understanding the practices underlying the work of our community’. By contrast, Noshir Dadrawala notes that very little data is collected in India, which means that most of the figures produced about the sector are speculative and often unreliable. ‘NGOs in India are believed [our italics] to raise Rs 40,000–Rs 80,000 crores [US$7 billion–US$14 billion] per annum,’ he says. He cites the data produced by the Central Statistical Institute of India suggesting that the country has ‘3.3 million NGOs or almost one NGO for every 400 Indians. Of course,’ he says, ‘this data is quite flawed.’ The Ministry of Home Affairs collects data on foreign contributions, the World Bank has data on remittances sent home to India from the diaspora, and Bain & Co has been collecting and publishing some data on individual giving over the past couple of years, but there is no single source of information on the inflows and outflows of money to the Indian non-profit sector. What’s missing? In most cases, it is unclear where foundation or non-profit money comes from and where it goes. For Dadrawala, what’s lacking in India for both HNWIs

Alliance would like to thank the following for their contributions:

Mark Bolgiano, chief information officer, Council on Foundations, USA

Noshir Dadrawala, CEO, Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy, India

Helena Monteiro, executive director, Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), Brazil

Niamani Mutima, executive director, Africa Grantmakers Affinity Group (AGAG), USA

Fernando Rossetti, secretary general, Grupo de Institutos, Fundacoes e Empresas (GIFE), Brazil

Nicanor Sabula, CEO, East African Association of Grantmakers (EAAG), Kenya

Gerry Salole, chief executive, European Foundation Centre (EFC), Belgium

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and ordinary Indians is information on who gives, how much and to whom. Niamani Mutima makes a similar point. ‘While the focus is often on the amount of money being spent,’ she says, ‘I am not so sure the amount is as important as why and how.’ For instance, ‘when a foundation or group of foundations have put significant investment in organizations in a country and been a part ‘The financial information of building the field in an area and (where the money comes then decide to stop, I really do want from and where it goes) to know more about why they made offered by foundations and that decision.’ The rationale for the government is still very such changes, she feels, is often re- “rough” and “dirty”.’ stricted to ‘corridor conversations Fernando Rossetti or informal telephone calls’ and is seldom made public. Nicanor Sabula of the East African Association of Grantmakers (EAAG) would also like to know the amounts of money committed to philanthropy annually in his region and the contribution of philanthropy to the GDP of the various East African countries. Fernando Rossetti of Grupo de Institutos, Fundacoes e Empresas (GIFE), speaking of Brazil, says that ‘the financial information (where the money comes from and where it goes) offered by foundations and the government is still very “rough” and “dirty”’. On the whole, the amounts contributed by philanthropy are less of an issue to those in Europe and the US. For them perhaps a more significant question is what effect the resources of the sector are having. Niamani Mutima observes that she would ‘like to know about what ‘Our capacity to advocate and philanthropy is learning’. There are to offer tools and services for plenty of sources of information on the growth and development individual organizations, says Mark of philanthropy worldwide is Bolgiano, and that’s fine for looking impaired due to lack of data.’ at them individually, but what’s Helena Monteiro lacking for him is data ‘on the philanthropic sector in the aggregate, which makes it difficult for those in the sector to get data about its scope and impact’. Gerry Salole doesn’t believe we need more information. Instead, he argues, we need sharper thinking on ‘how we can bring all this information together to inform our work and provide a clearer understanding of the sector’. What is data needed for? And not only for those in the sector. Good and reliable data on philanthropy, says Noshir Dadrawala, could help government set better policies while giving would become better informed. ‘Our capacity to advocate and

to offer tools and services for the growth and development of philanthropy worldwide is impaired due to lack of data,’ believes Helena Monteiro. Strategic planning would be enhanced with more and better data, agrees Fernando Rossetti: ‘partnerships would be facilitated; grantseekers would have an easier time.’ Better information would enable East African grantmakers to avoid duplication and mobilize their resources more effectively, says Nicanor Sabula. ‘It would be great to have “real time” information about the organizations currently being supported as well as information about funding by individuals,’ says Niamani Mutima, with what she admits is optimism. Back down on earth, though, better data, she says, ‘might enable American philanthropy to be better partners in African development’. More information ‘could help us to gain a better picture of how philanthropy is trying to fit into the development landscape of Africa. In this way the story of philanthropy and African development might not be so episodic and individual.’ Finally, because members of AGAG often work at a distance (many are based in the US), they want information about ‘the work being done by civil society organizations because these are the ones really doing the work’. Improving transparency, facilitating collaboration Another great virtue of data, believes Mark Bolgiano, is that it makes organizations transparent. Fernando Rossetti agrees that having the kinds of data that, say, the US for-profit sector has would increase the ‘relevance and social legitimacy’ of the philanthropic sector in Brazil which, he says, has been prone to scandals over corruption. Conversely, says Bolgiano, ‘lack of data translates into lack of visibility across the sector. This blindness results in missed opportunities to partner with other people and organizations with natural affinities.’ Most of the other participants agreed. Niamani Mutima spoke of ‘lost opportunities for funders to complement each other in their funding and possibly have a great impact in a community or sector’. Likewise, Rossetti believes that ‘some partnerships in territories or thematic fields do not occur due to the lack of information’. Barriers to sharing information The arguments in favour of better data seem overwhelming and obvious. It seems equally obvious that one way of getting a clearer picture of the sector overall – whether globally, regionally or nationally – would be through greater sharing of information by and among

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foundations. Yet, as Niamani Mutima observes, ‘foundations don’t seem to know a lot about what each other is doing outside of their areas.’ Why not? Noshir Dadrawala tells the following illuminating story: ‘About a year ago an attempt was made to set up an Indian Philanthropy Network. . . . The first meeting was held in the office of the Tata Trusts. At the second meeting, ‘About a year ago an attempt held at EdelGive Foundation, just a was made to set up an Indian few turned up. It was decided to go Philanthropy Network. After for teleconferences but not many a year, things just fizzled joined. Ultimately, after a year, out. And this was for just one things just fizzled out. And this was reason. Foundations did not for just one reason. Foundations did find the time . . . because they not find the time . . . because they probably did not see much probably did not see much value value in networking. Each in networking. Each was way too was way too caught up with their own work.’ caught up with their own work.’ Where foundations do share information, he feels, it is likely to be partial. ‘Most, if not all, foundations only report success stories,’ he suggests, and that unwillingness to admit failure limits the information foundations are willing to divulge. Niamani Mutima agrees: ‘I think there is an incredible fear of talking candidly about failure or not getting it right.’ She adds: ‘the decision-making process and rationale for both the institutional and individual philanthropist can ‘I think there is an incredible be based on such a wide range of fear of talking candidly about things. Sometimes, it only makes failure or not getting it right. The decision-making process sense in the internal context.’ Gerry Salole points to foundations’ unwillingness to open themselves to scrutiny when he talks about the need ‘to demystify the apprehension felt by some foundations about communicating more information about their work and operations’. This is probably less to do with reluctance to admit failure to peers, however, than with a general defensiveness foundations feel in response to what they see as a sort of latent public resentment of their position – they often enjoy exemption from taxation, they don’t have to obey the behests of shareholders or voters, etc.

information will discourage potential donors, who may shy away from supporting a foundation that already receives a lot of money; or that their ideas and innovations may be stolen by less creative organizations. But in some instances, he suggests, it could simply be that ‘some foundations do not honestly have documented information to share. Their knowledge is resident in the heads of their leaders/founders.’ Fernando Rossetti cites a reason for the lack of information sharing among family foundations which may be particular to Brazil – ‘the fear of their members being kidnapped’. However, he casts doubt on the sincerity of this motive. ‘These individuals generally do not refrain from appearing in celebrity magazines,’ he notes. A better reason why Brazilian foundations don’t share information, he thinks, is that Brazilian philanthropy tends to be dominated by corporate foundations. Their use of their philanthropy to raise their business profile tends to mean ‘the overstatement of some issues and the absence of information on others’. Gerry Salole sees signs of change towards greater openness, however, and talks of ‘vastly improved access to information through websites, annual reports and other media. We really get a sense that there is a greater willingness to share experiences both within the community and also more widely with other partners and the public at large.’ He also mentions a ‘growing appetite for cross-border conversations and for learning opportunities about these diverse experiences’. Barriers to collecting data

Noshir Dadrawala

and rationale for both the It might be useful to draw a distinction between proinstitutional and individual ducing data and sharing data. In the second case, as philanthropist can be based we have seen, the barriers tend to be cultural. In the on such a wide range of things. first, they are more likely to be technical or financial. Sometimes, it only makes ‘I think the cost of accessing data both in terms of sense in the internal context.’ time and money,’ says Niamani Mutima, ‘is probably Niamani Mutima the major barrier for us as an organization.’ In a sector where things change quickly, she reflects, keeping information up to date can be a demanding exercise: ‘Foundations can change priorities or approaches rather quickly. After a few years they might change their strategy, approach or focus and they are not funding in that country, sector and approach any more. So data can get old very fast.’ Mark Bolgiano sees two technical barriers in the US to accessing data: the lack of ‘a true public data utility’ – a single provider of philanthropic data that makes that data available at a low cost or free – and the lack of open data standards, a standardized format that everyone in or connected to the sector agrees to use. For these

This defensiveness might be better grounded in some cases than in others. Nicanor Sabula notes among East African grantmakers ‘a fear of authorities, especially when it comes to taxation laws. Since the tax laws are not well understood, some foundations fear exposing themselves.’ They may also fear that sharing

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And it’s not only a matter of analysing the data. Noshir Dadrawala has already referred to the existence of ‘flawed data’. Niamani Mutima also raises the question of the integrity of data – ‘who gathered it and to what end?’ She cites a recent article in the UK’s Guardian The need for standardization – beware the albatross! newspaper about the Failed State Index and its impact. We have seen elsewhere in this issue (see conversation ‘It raised the question of how useful the Foreign Policy between Bradford Smith and Rosa ‘There is a fear of authorities, magazine annual index of failed states is and what it Gallego on p37) that data would especially when it comes to means.’ The article she is referring to describes the be easier to collect and interpret taxation laws. Since the tax Failed States Index as ‘a high-profile attack on the counif it were in a standardized form. laws are not well understood, tries that appear near the top of the list . . . which could Helena Monteiro sees it as one of the some foundations fear even exacerbate the instability it seeks to describe by great challenges to standardize ‘in- exposing themselves.’ undermining citizens’ confidence in their country’s formation on who gives money, how Nicanor Sabula ability to transform itself.’1 much, how, to which cause or issue, We need to build a common vision and shared prinwho gets it/who benefits, what are the results’. She adciples for global data on philanthropy, says Helena mits that ‘standardization is difficult because of the Monteiro. How will the data collected be used? How complexity and diversity of philanthropy’. WINGS is can we ensure data quality? ‘These are important quescurrently working in partnership with the Foundation tions that need to be discussed and agreed on.’ Center to develop a standardized way to collect data from WINGS members (see p15). No growth without data Gerry Salole adds a caution about attempts at standardizing data. The EFC struggled for over a decade to develop a typology for classifying ‘It’s not a question of if, it’s European foundations based on a now just a question of when. US template. ‘While serving as an The Big Data movement adequate starting point for a super- is overtaking commercial ficial taxonomy of foundations,’ he data services in all sectors says, ‘the typology failed to take including those that sell into account new forms, trends, var- public data to foundations.’ iations and exceptions to the rule. Mark Bolgiano In truth,’ he concludes, ‘we had set ourselves an impossible task.’ They finally decided to abandon the attempt, ‘thus removing the albatross from around our necks’. He concludes: ‘I think it is important that we embrace and celebrate the diversity of our sector. That is why we focus on capturing a more situational snapshot of the foundation sector in Europe, through documenting stories, case studies and relationships.’ Gathering up the wisdom from those seated round our virtual table, one of the first things that emerges clearly is that, in terms of information, more isn’t necessarily better. While data collection is important, analysis is crucial. In the more developed countries, it seems, much of the basic data that foundations and non-profits might need already exists in one form or another. The challenge is to access or to combine it in ways that are both appropriate to needs and cheap enough to be feasible. In developing countries, this might not always be so. In all circumstances, though, a variety of considerations, cultural, technical and financial, hinder the better collection and use of data. The technical ones are likely to be resolved first; in many cases, they are already on their way to solution. In some instances, even the cultural ones are being overcome.

two things, he’s convinced, ‘it’s not a question of if, it’s now just a question of when. The Big Data movement is overtaking commercial data services in all sectors including those that sell public data to foundations.’

But whatever the state of information collection or sharing in their respective worlds, all participants agree that having access to the right kinds of data would improve the sector’s efficiency, its standing with Examining the data both government and public, and ultimately its influHaving the data is one thing; using it to good effect is another. Gerry Salole has already ‘While serving as an adequate ence and impact. As Noshir Dadrawala points out, ‘all suggested that what’s needed is starting point for a superficial growth is dependent on measure and if there are no not more information but better taxonomy of foundations, the reliable data to benchmark against, measuring is difficult, if not impossible’. analysis of it. Niamani Mutima also

believes that it is often ‘more a matter of accurate and useful analysis of the information than the information itself’.

typology failed to take into account new forms, trends, variations and exceptions to the rule. In truth, we had set ourselves an impossible task.’ Gerry Salole

1 The Guardian, 2 July 2012, ‘Failed States Index belongs in the policy dustbin’: http://

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Data shadows Challenges of a data-rich world
‘Like the wallpaper sticks to the wall Like the seashore clings to the sea You’ll never get rid of your shadow You’ll never get rid of me’

Stephanie Hankey

you want), using your data to serve you up more expensive products. In this way, Orbitz reportedly offers Mac users more expensive hotels because they have discovered that on average Mac users spend $20 to $30 more on hotels than their PC counterparts. Risky is when you are part of a marginalized community and thought you were organizing in a closed group, but Facebook changes its settings, making everything you thought was private become public. In these circumstances, our lack of control over our data puts our communities and livelihoods, even our lives, at risk. Whose data is it anyway? This problem isn’t limited to our online socializing, reading and buying. As we start to use online services that do the work for us, for free, such as those that help us publish our photographs or videos, we are not only handing over the details of who we are, where we are and what we like, but also our content. What we gain in convenience, we lose in control. As we move our data off our devices and into ‘the cloud’, this has some serious consequences. We entrust our content to companies who are themselves finding it hard to keep on top of the fast pace of the digital world. Last year, the popular file storage and transfer service Dropbox experienced a security breach that made it possible for anyone to use any account without any authentication. It lasted only four hours, but the incident confirmed that it is a fledgling environment and we should be careful about giving up our control of information.

These words, written in 1927, are the start of the well-known song ‘Me and My Shadow’. When we at Tactical Tech launched our project of the same name, 85 years later, we weren’t thinking of two inseparable friends but of the inseparable shadows each of us has grown in the digital realm – shadows formed by the personal details we’ve put on social networking sites or the times we’ve clicked yes or ‘bots’ passing on our user details to other ‘bots’. Whatever the shape of our digital shadow and however much of it we know or don’t know, we’re starting to realize that, just like the shadow in the song, it sticks to us ‘like the seashore clings to the sea’.

Stephanie Hankey is executive director of Tactical Tech. Email stephanie@

The effects of this digital shadow vary. They may be useful, annoying or extremely dangerous. In all cases, however, they have direct implications for privacy, civil liberties, freedom of expression and human rights, and therefore cannot be ignored by foundations concerned with any of these issues. Who’s in control? Service providers are companies in the real world, so How did we get here? 1 The recent Wall Street Journal series What They Know obviously, they will hand over information to governmaps what data the 50 biggest websites and mobile ment agencies when requested. The Electronic Frontier services are collecting on their users, what they do Foundation has done some interesting work on this. with it, and if they give users the chance to opt out When the government comes knocking, who has your back? or not. In parallel, tech activists and practitioners are uses a star system to rate the main service providers, trying to empower users, lifting them out of unwitting if they publish information about requests for user data slavery. Mozilla, for example, recently launched data or not, and if they defend users’ rights against a plug-in, Collusion, that allows you to track the data authorities. Some service providers clearly come out others are collecting on you directly as you browse, better than others and some have been embarrassed giving you some control of what you are giving away by taking censorship into their own hands and taking and the ability to make better decisions about which down user content. services you use.

Despite the widespread coverage in the media of repressive states leaning on technology companies for Pesky or risky? Looking at What They Know or using Collusion can information, evidence shows this is not restricted to quickly make you quite paranoid. But the question is, places where there is considered to be a lack of freedom do we need to be? When is data collection and analysis of expression. In July 2012, Twitter published its first ‘pesky’ and when is it ‘risky’? Pesky is what marketing transparency report showing that the US government people call predictive analytics (that is, the analysis of made 679 requests for user data in the first half of the your behaviour in order supposedly to give you what year, more than all other governments combined. In 2011, Google reported that US government agencies
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and organizing, as the digital traces they leave behind are far too great to take the risk. Nor is it only governments who are using these new means of surveillance. In Uganda last year a gay rights activist was murdered after a local tabloid published personal information from Facebook. In Mexico the biggest threat to opinionated young bloggers comes from drug cartels who are monitoring the internet and then directly targeting individuals and torturing or murdering them. What now? It is no longer possible to separate the issues of technology and data – traditionally the domain of IT or communications departments – from the programmatic work of foundations. The technologies and the work they facilitate have become intertwined, the people and their digital shadows have become inseparable. The fact that the universe of things we can’t control as users has become so large and so difficult to influence makes it even more important to start looking at what can be done at a practical level and to focus on what is within our control. This is doubly true for those working on the frontline, for whom these issues have switched from troubling to life-threatening. We need to start helping users change their behaviour, supporting them to better understand the services and tools they are using, and continue to question what has too quickly and easily become the norm. Technology providers have a responsibility to treat users’ rights with the same care as human rights. Privacy means different things to different people. It can hinge on your philosophical and political approach to society and where you are and who you are. No doubt everyone would agree, for example, that it is critical in extreme cases like Syria, but in circumstances where data about people’s political beliefs are less life-threatening, there needs to be a respect for choice. The default position should be that the user can opt in to sharing data, not that they bear the responsibility for opting out. Foundations should be supporting not only watchdogs and policymakers to keep up the debate but also those who help users understand and control their digital shadows; they should support people to be playful, creative and subversive. Internet technology is still in the age of prototyping. We as users should be challenging and improving it.
Recommended and related links Explore your own shadow Digital security toolkit Digital security tips Mobiles Anonymity Policy and legal aspects

asked for Google users’ data 12,271 times. Twitter is heralded as a carrier of revolutions; Google, along with Facebook, is the biggest data repository in the world. All three are American companies. The control of our data is not entirely in US hands of course. 27 January 2011 will no doubt go down in history as proof of this, as the world watched the Egyptian government demonstrate that there was an internet ‘kill switch’ and they could press the button. During 2012, Wikileaks, Privacy International and the Wall Street Journal published large amounts of data about what they call the new ‘arms industry’ and the extent of surveillance technologies being sold to governments worldwide. The leaks showed how governments are using technologies not only to protect and defend but also to track huge amounts of data created and exchanged by all their citizens. Who ultimately controls the data we own, share and use and who is responsible for it is currently being fought out not only by users and companies, but also by academics, policymakers, bilateral organizations and government agencies, at conferences and international forums from Sweden to Brazil. What was once a technical issue for geeks has now become a major global political issue. What does this mean for journalists and activists? This month, the United Nations Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR) passed a resolution that recognizes that freedom of expression principles in the real world should be mirrored in the online world. The Arab uprisings have undoubtedly driven UNCHR to this point. The internet was fundamental in enabling expression and action during the Arab Spring, but was also a major source of vulnerability, exposing thousands of activists across the region. Thousands of activists have been compromised through their use of online social media networks and publishing platforms in Syria. This has now reached such a level that many high-profile activists use online platforms only for broadcasting and publishing, not for mobilizing

1 http://blogs.wsj. com/wtk

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Visualizing philanthropy Storytelling with data
Cole Nussbaumer Of all the groups I have worked with, those in the philanthropic sector have some of the biggest opportunities to tell compelling stories with data. Yet the strategic advantage that can be gained through this is often missed: in some cases, no data are used when they could be incorporated to help make a stronger case, while in others the data that are included confuse more than they inform. And as data about foundations and their activities inevitably make their way into the public sphere, these communication challenges are heightened.

create about themselves. This is going to be tough. In general, philanthropy came late to communications and foundations have labored to get beyond speech writing to strategic communications. Now, just as the messages are getting more sophisticated and soaring through cyberspace on the wings of social media, foundations will have to make sure their data supports their messages and vice versa.’ 1

In other words, foundations will need to become data-literate. A quick real-world example, focusing on the challenges of using data effectively for internal decision-making (a good place for foundations to begin honing their data presentation skills), serves to illustrate the importance of choosing the right data presentation strategies to communicate about foundation work. I recall working with a client who wanted to frame a discussion for their board about where to use unallocated funds for the upcoming year. They shared with me the visual presented at the bottom of the page.

Let’s analyse this graphic from the standpoint of using Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center, data to tell a story. How would you score it with respect tells a story that illustrates what is at stake. to each of the following principles of good practice?
‘Years ago, I was in a foundation meeting where an industrious staff member, who had analysed hundreds of active grants, shocked the room by announcing we were doing far less to help the poor than we believed. That was then, and there was little concern that such an insight might leave the building and go public. Today foundations find themselves in a world where, one way or another, the data they have designed for internal purposes will increasingly be consumed by others. And it may be used to tell stories that are different from the carefully crafted ones that foundations

Cole Nussbaumer specializes in the effective display of quantitative information; she writes the popular blog storytellingwithdata. com. Email cole. nussbaumer@gmail. com

1 Keep your audience top of mind. Everything you’re doing is for your audience, so keep who they are and their needs in mind throughout the process: from figuring out what you want to communicate, to determining what data to show, to deciding how to show it, where to draw attention, and what story to form with it. Make it clear to your audience what you want them to know and why they should care: what’s in it for them and what you need them to do. Does this graphic succeed in keeping its audience top of mind? 2 Choose a visual format that makes sense. Line graphs are great for showing trends over time and bar charts are good for comparing categorical data. Pie charts (and area charts in general) are hard for people to read because our eyes don’t do a good job measuring angles and areas, so be cautious when using them. When choosing between a common chart type like a bar chart and something less common, my recommendation is generally for the common chart: it means less of a learning curve for your audience to face to get at the information you are providing.

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Does this graphic employ a visual format that makes sense? 3 Resist the temptation to dress up your data. 3D, meaningless colour, background shading: these distract from your data by adding clutter without informing. When you’ve found the right angle – the right way to make your data compelling for your audience – there’s no need to dress it up, because the data itself becomes inherently interesting. Does this graphic unnecessarily dress up the data? 4 Draw attention to the important parts of your visual. Colour, size and position on the page are some of the easiest and most powerful ways to draw the audience’s attention to different parts of your visual. Don’t use colour to make things colourful, use it sparingly and strategically to draw your audience’s attention to where you want them to focus. If something is more important, make it big and place it in higher priority places on the page (since in Western cultures most people read left to right and top to bottom, the top left of the page is precious real estate: make it count!). Think of using colour and size to create a visual hierarchy on the page: this is a way to let your audience into your head via visual cues so they know what is most important and where to focus their attention first, what is next most important, and so on. Does this graphic draw attention to the important parts of the visual? 5 Tell a story. Stories have a way of focusing your audience’s attention and helping them understand why the data you are showing are relevant and important. I think of stories in terms of plot, twists and ending, where the plot is the context that is essential for your audience to know, the twists are the findings and what make your story compelling, and the ending is the call to action: what you need your audience to know and do. If you have a recommendation, state it clearly in words in your communication. Does this graphic tell a story? When used well, data can add credibility where we lack it, impart new knowledge, persuade people to support your vision, demonstrate impact, or help convince someone to take action. But it is not enough simply to show data; we want to tell a story with data. At the top of the page is a remake of what the 3D pie chart could look like when we strive to tell a story with the data. Whether your audience is prospective donors deciding whether to make a contribution to your cause or foundation leaders looking for direction as they steer

1 http://pndblog. pndblog/2012/07/ philanthropysdata-dilemma.html

the course of the organization, effectively incorporating data into your communication can enable faster, better decision-making. The key is keeping the goal of telling the story foremost in mind, even when data are the means through which it is conveyed.

For philanthropy and social investment worldwide

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The narrative of impact: it’s not just the numbers

Kelly Notcutt and Tamzin Ractliffe

defining experience for impact investors in a world where financial return is easily measured and quantifiable but social impact is harder to discern. Mark van Wyk, portfolio manager of a GIIRS-rated fund at Mergence Investment Managers, illustrates this point: ‘Data may not paint a complete picture of impact, but the narrative, the experience of beneficiaries and staff, provides another perspective and a clearer understanding of tangible and intangible impact.’

As an emerging investment strategy, impact investing has had to work hard to gain the trust of actors both in the impact sector and in traditional financial markets. Data have played an immense role in creating the track record necessary to facilitate trust and persuade the initially not-so-convinced investors and funders that impact investing, although risky, can produce the goods. But data are not the be all and end all of reporting impact.

Kelly Notcutt is head of Strategic Communications at Nexii. Email kelly@

Tamzin Ractliffe is the founder and CEO at Nexii. Email

David Bonbright of Keystone Accountability helped to develop IPAL, an impact reporting tool that values feedback from constituents. Bonbright argues that the voices of the beneficiaries of an impact investment are the most overlooked and undervalued piece of the impact reporting puzzle. The IPAL tool uses beneficiary feedback to determine whether money spent is actually achieving the intended purpose. When you know the questions to ask and get this sort of feedback, you Producing the data to prove impact is tricky. To motivate investment, social businesses need to show that can predict where changes in intervention or service they have achieved a positive social or environmental delivery can take you. Thus, feedback from constituimpact so that investors will gain a social return in ents today will correlate to impact achieved tomorrow. addition to their financial return. Numerous meas- Nexii, a social business that provides specialist urement and reporting tools have been designed such support and advisory services related to impact investas GIIRS (Global Impact Investing Rating System) and ment, manages the world’s first social stock exchange, SROI (Social Return on Investment). However, the the iX, in collaboration with the Stock Exchange of sheer diversity of mission and impact that exists in Mauritius. Our experience attests to the power of stothe impact investing sector makes recording compa- ries in understanding the real experience of impact rable data near impossible. Social business A may have investments at a ground level. Take the case of a social a greater environmental or social impact than social business, seeking to list with iX, that provides small business B, but because B’s outcomes are more easily micro-loans to rural women to increase their entermeasured, it may be perceived as having a greater prise activities. One beneficiary of this programme, a woman on her fourth loan, had a significant growth impact. The problem is that ‘hard’ data alone do not truth- in turnover, clearly producing a positive financial refully reflect reality. Furthermore, when you exclude turn for her and for her investors. However, on the face the narrative you may overlook issues such as relative of it there was little evidence of any other significant location, access or even urgency addressed by social change in her life. The director of the organization business A which would make its impact even more therefore decided to visit her. Noticing no specific compelling in the circumstances. Circumstances be- improvement in her living conditions, he turned to come black holes without the narrative. These holes the field officer, who pointed out that she had put up in the data net are becoming increasingly obvious and a fence round her garden so that the goats were no are problematic when it comes to using data to attract longer able to destroy her crops. That was the reason for a tripling of her produce over the period. Unseen resources. perhaps to the data. Visible in the narrative. Standardized, sanitized reporting removes the uniqueness that stories and an understanding of the Stories of impact and tools like IPAL go beyond cosbeneficiaries’ experience provide. While impact in- metic reflections by incorporating the voice and value vestors want to ensure that their financial returns of those who experience the impact. If data alone prowill not be compromised, they want to be clear that vide an incomplete and problematic understanding, a their investment has made a significant and positive combination of narrative and data is vital in reflecting difference in people’s lives. These ‘stories’ ultimately the true impact of an impact investment. provide the narrative of impact and may well be the

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Supporting data collection by the poor
Sheela Patel Data in the sphere of development has been effectively used for big picture questions like measuring levels of poverty and malnutrition or assessing the health and educational standards of a country or region’s population. For those of us who have been working on a smaller scale on issues like urban poverty, data about cities is very silent on issues related to poverty, slums and all forms of informality. Information is never accurate, it is always outdated, and it is seldom comprehensive. Often just a few informal settlements will be included. At the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) and Slum Dwellers International (SDI), we have found that using the poor to collect and record data about themselves both develops their capabilities and produces better data.
SPARC and SDI use what we call ‘enumerations’ – data about slums and their land and amenities status, and data about households. We find that this is a powerful tool. First, it creates the organizational form of social movements: when everyone answers the same questions about who they are, what they do in the city, where they live and what their challenges are, it produces an identity; it produces solidarity and it forms the basis for developing a consensus on collective priorities. It also forms the basis for dialogue with the city or state, both to legitimize data that the poor collect about themselves and to define what the development issues are and where investments should be made. Because the data can be aggregated and disaggregated, they can also become a benchmark of impact and the value of investments. In many cases, foundations have assisted us in developing the infrastructure and capability to design, collect and store data. Often grantmakers need to see the impact and value of slum dwellers collecting information before they become convinced about financing the process. Generally, they see the collection, management and use of data as activities for researchers, academics and state agencies;

their initial view of communities collecting data is that it is an unnecessary duplication. However, we have been able to demonstrate that communities can often collect better data about themselves and use it more effectively than professionals can. Not only would it be extremely expensive to contract an organization, say, to undertake interviews with the inhabitants of 200 informal settlements from all over Namibia, or to map and produce profiles of 330 informal settlements in Cuttack (India), but the professionals would face formidable obstacles because of their lack of local knowledge. They would be working in areas with no maps, no lists of buildings, often no street names or details of where the settlement’s boundaries are. There would be pressure on interviewers to work quickly. Furthermore, they may not speak the language of those they interview, which adds to the costs and to the difficulties of getting accurate responses. They would also have to contend with suspicion from people who feel threatened by outsiders asking questions – for instance, those who fear eviction, those engaged in illegal activities, or illegal immigrants. Through our advocacy over time, more and more cities and government institutions have been commissioning data gathering projects from organizations of the poor and the NGOs that work with them. They have seen that the organizations that conventionally collect data don’t know how to work in slums, and the results of community-driven exercises have surprised them. In Old Fadama in Accra, for example, the enumerations showed a much larger population than local government estimates; it also showed the scale of residents’ involvement with the local economy and the extent of public infrastructure and services. This documentation helped discourage successive governments from their intention to evict. By contrast, the enumerations in Joe Slovo in Cape Town showed a smaller than expected population, which made in situ upgrading, which locals had been agitating for, more feasible. These are just two examples of the sort of detailed and accurate picture of informal settlements that can emerge when the poor collect data about themselves, and the uses to which this can be put.
For more information

Sheela Patel is director of SPARC and chair of SDI. Email sparcssns@

Measuring exercise at Joe Slovo in Cape Town.

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Six degrees of capitalization

James Leaton and Mark Campanale

fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide . . . If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn’t pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet.’ 2 The paradox is that fossil fuel company valuations are counting on future revenue streams to pay debts and dividends, but these revenue streams are dependent on the world continuing on a pathway to 6 degrees of warming. The market does not currently factor this into its financial models; the data it provides are based on a business-as-usual scenario. The Carbon Tracker Initiative is using its findings to challenge the assumptions underlying the current financial data. Producing an alternative analysis based on a carbon-constrained world is one way of influencing the data flow that allocates capital. ‘The regular process of economic evolution is that businesses are left with stranded assets all the time,’ says Nick Robins, who runs HSBC’s Climate Change Centre. ‘Think of film cameras, or typewriters. The question is not whether this will happen. It will. Pension systems have been hit by the dot-com and credit crunch. They’ll be hit by this.’

Despite tightening climate regulations, the capital markets are becoming more fossil fuel intense, not less, with large fossil fuel companies raising big money on the world’s leading stock exchanges during the decade from 2000. The amount of carbon in the world’s proven fossil fuel stocks is some 2,795 gigatons – five times more than climate scientists say we can safely burn. Yet the owners of those stocks are already borrowing money and paying dividends on the basis of the 2,795 figure. Carbon Tracker was set up in 2010 to produce the data that uncovered this situation.
Three years earlier a paper by Nick Robins and Mark Campanale for the Quality of Life Commission’s website suggested that the markets had already financed more coal and oil than could safely be burned. But to turn this theory into robust data required analysis. The first task was to evaluate the balance sheets of some 200 of the world’s largest listed coal, gas and oil companies to look at their reserves – and then convert this data into CO2 emissions potential. This was an obvious piece of data analysis, but it hadn’t been done before.

James Leaton is project director at Carbon Tracker. Email jleaton@

Mark Campanale is a director of Carbon Tracker. Email mark@

Given the threats to capital markets stability as well as to climate stability, Christiana Figueres, the UN head of climate, has called for more active valuations of companies which factor in climate change risk. 3 Based on this, the 2011 ‘Carbon Bubble report’ The markets haven’t spotted the problem yet – but exposed the misalignment between the world’s with some 20–30 per cent of the global value of stock exchanges and the climate change agenda.1 In essence, the levels of coal, oil and gas reserves being equity markets based on an assumption that all the financed by the capital markets – including investors fossil fuel financed will get sold, how much of your investment portfolio is based on climate-literate data? like foundations and endowments – are taking us to 6 degrees of warming rather than the 2 degrees The next phase of work for Carbon Tracker is to challenge the way in which regulators govern the target the world’s governments have agreed. The 2,795 gigatons they hold is five times higher than the disclosure of the fossil fuel intensity of the capital remaining ‘carbon budget’ climate scientists say we markets (they currently don’t); the way accountants treat the reserves of fossil fuel companies that can’t have left to burn to stay below 2 degrees warming. be burned (what ‘haircut’ to valuations is required This misalignment has been a wake-up call for the to get all listed companies into a 2 degrees balance?); climate change community. Rather than counting last year’s flows of carbon emissions, which have and the way the banks calculate the valuations of the already gone into the atmosphere, we need to look at companies they make investment recommendations the stocks of carbon being built up. on (should the banks be changing their financial models?). This is the next set of questions that Carbon As a recent article in Rolling Stone magazine has pointed out, though ‘this coal and gas and oil is still Tracker hopes to find answers for. technically in the soil . . . it’s already economically above ground – it’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big
For more information
1 carbonbubble 2 politics/news/global-warmingsterrifying-new-math-20120719 3 environment/2011/oct/10/ climate-change-costcompanies-worth

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Encouraging sustainable land investments
Alejandro Litovsky is founder and director of the Earth Security Initiative. Email alejandro@

Alejandro Litovsky

The surge in farmland and commodities investments is causing widespread concern about ‘land-grabbing’ and the accelerated loss of biodiversity, water depletion, soil erosion and human rights abuses. These investments are expected to grow substantially over the next decade, given the growing global demand for commodities and rising commodity prices; natural resource limitations; and farmland being a ‘real asset’ that offers diversification to investors’ portfolios at a time of volatility in global financial markets. The need to increase food production in the next decade, against a backdrop of pressures on land and water, puts the question of land at the centre of a new security agenda. In March 2012, a report by the Earth Security Initiative (ESI) involved investors and activists in exploring how to create new economic and political incentives for sustainable land investments. The report portrays land assets as being at the heart

of a nexus of risks derived from competing food, energy and water demands in different countries. Sustainability issues, it argues, will be increasingly key in the economic and political stability of nations; they therefore present a set of risks for those investing in land-related assets and projects. But scarcity and competition could also open up a new opportunity for investments to focus on long-term value creation. How to influence these investment decisions? This is where data comes in. As the next step, the ESI is developing the Land Security Index. The index will provide an independent analysis of country data on five trends that are not usually analysed together: water limits, land degradation, food security, governance and climate change. It will suggest how these data might provide new insights into long-term country risk metrics. ESI will continue to involve global investors in working out how this information can best be included in the investment decision cycle, the ultimate aim being to demonstrate how considering these sustainability metrics is in the interest of both financial markets and governments.
For more information To find out more and to download The Land Security Agenda visit

Moving the tanker
Caroline Fiennes is director of Giving Evidence. Email caroline.fiennes@ Jeff Mosenkis is global outreach coordinator at IPA. Email JMosenkis@

Caroline Fiennes and Jeff Mosenkis

‘We are a tiny, tiny little organization,’ says Bill Gates about the largest foundation that the world has ever seen. He’s right: the Gates Foundation’s annual grantmaking is only a tiny fraction of governments’ budgets. But smart philanthropic money can act like a tug, guiding tankers much bigger than itself such as companies or governments. It does that by identifying what works. In India in 2005, a third of children in one study couldn’t read even a short paragraph. As school enrolment grew, even more students were falling behind. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) – which uses randomized control trials to evaluate programmes which counter extreme poverty – worked with an Indian NGO to evaluate a programme using assistants drawn from the community to teach basic skills to the lowest-performing students. The trial found that the programme significantly increased basic competency for the lowest achievers, and cost only $2.25 per student. The government of Ghana had a similar problem: it spends £450 million a year on basic education but only 20 per cent of

pupils attain national proficiency levels in English. Based on the success of the community assistants programme in India, IPA partnered with the Ghanaian government to design a programme for Ghana. With support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, it was tested against several alternative variations in 400 schools. To everyone’s surprise, the original programme produced the best results. IPA frequently finds that programmes assumed to work don’t work, or don’t work as expected, even if they have been running for a long time. The Ghanaian government’s positive experience has strengthened its commitment to testing policies and rigorously evaluating their impact before implementing them. Other countries where policymakers seem to be open to the findings of rigorous research include Kenya, Zambia, Mexico and even Liberia as it recovers from conflict. As Richard Thaler, American co-author of the best-selling book Nudge, points out: ‘Governments can’t make evidence-based policy decisions unless they have some evidence.’ Philanthropic money is uniquely well placed to provide it.
For more information

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Putting family foundations on the map
Cathy Pharoah and Charles Keidan
Trying to change the world through philanthropy without data on what we do is like starting a journey without compass or map. This was the recognition that led to the collaboration between Pears Foundation and the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP) on Family Foundation Giving Trends, which presents annual data on major family foundation giving in the UK, US and Europe. Now into its fifth edition, it has clear objectives: to provide a reliable and transparent benchmark of family foundation giving and to arouse the interest of wealthy families in philanthropic activities by demonstrating what many are already doing.
Cathy Pharoah is director of CGAP. Email Catherina. Pharoah.1@city. Charles Keidan is director of Pears Foundation. Email ckeidan@ pearsfoundation.

as a distinct field of philanthropy in Europe, as it is in the US. More wealth managers and family offices are including family foundation philanthropy in their client advice, with examples including recent UBS initiatives and a seminar by the Institute for Family Business in the UK. The research has provided a platform to bring philanthropists such as Tom Hunter, Trevor Pears and the late Nigel Doughty together in discussion, as happened at its 2011 launch at Cass Business School. This has fostered donor networking and experience sharing while also highlighting the value of mutual learning among family donors, and a potential role for philanthropy advisers in creating appropriate networking opportunities. As one donor said: ‘it was as if I had set sail without a rudder.’ All of this depended on the project’s pioneering work in identifying family foundations and capturing data from disparate and fragmented sources. Learning from international comparison was limited because few European countries have the information available in the UK through the annual reports and accounts submitted to the Charity Commission. An important outcome, therefore, was highlighting the gaps in our knowledge. More academic research on foundations will become even more important as we move beyond individual foundation stories to a more systematic appreciation of the nature and impact of their work.

So what have the data revealed? That the largest 100 family foundations in the UK are responsible for between 7 and 10 per cent of all charitable giving; that giving through family foundations has been relatively robust through recent economic turbulence compared to individual and corporate giving. Over time, the data will provide an indicator of the response of philanthropy to a prolonged downturn. These findings point to one major outcome of the project: it has helped establish family foundations


Big Data A term used to describe data sets so large that they become awkward to work with using standard database management tools. (Source: Wikipedia) The 40 billion photos handled by Facebook and the 1 million customer transactions logged by Walmart every hour are examples. Cloud computing Location-independent computing in which shared servers provide resources, software and data to computers and other devices on demand. Typical cloud computing providers deliver common business applications that are accessed from another web service or software like a web browser. (Source: Google’s online suite of office productivity tools and webmail (Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail) are examples. Data Factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion or calculation; information, typically in numerical form, that can be digitally transmitted or processed. (Source: Database A comprehensive collection of related data organized for convenient access, generally in and through a computer. (Source:’s recommendation system and the Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online are examples.

Data analysis The process of studying and summarizing data with the intent to extract useful information and develop conclusions. (Source: Wikipedia) Data mining The automatic or semi-automatic analysis of large quantities of data to discover and extract previously unknown patterns. (Source: Wikipedia) The classic, oft-cited example involves Walmart, which through data mining discovered that a significant number of men were coming into their stores in the late afternoon and buying just diapers and beer.1 Data visualization Any technology that communicates data clearly and effectively through graphical means. (Source: Wikipedia) See

p57 for links to sites that offer wonderful examples of state-of-the-art data visualizations. Open data The idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. (Source: Wikipedia.), an initiative launched by the Clinton administration to increase the ability of the public to find, download and use datasets generated by the US government, is probably the best-known example.

1 tradepress/dm.html

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Data resources
‘For data to be useful in philanthropy they have to be known, accessible, and compoundable (able to be mixed and combined).’ So wrote Lucy Bernholz in a post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog in July.1 The following resources and examples, from philanthropy and beyond, are intended to help you think about your data in new and more interactive ways.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Based on a model of population health that emphasizes the many factors that can help make communities healthier places to live; ranks the health of nearly every county in the US. Interactive map that allows users to see who is funding WASH strategies around the world, with results filterable by country, strategy and other indicators.

DataKind Formerly known as Data Without Borders, DataKind brings together leading data scientists with high-impact social organizations. Drawing by Numbers Created by the Berlin-based Tactical Technology Collective, this site offers open-source software tools to help you make your own charts, maps and mashups; advice on the tactical use of data and visual communication for activists; and online manuals, toolkits and tutorials. Gapminder ‘Fact tank’ founded by Swedish doctor, academic and statistician Hans Rosling to promote a fact-based view of sustainable global development and achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Google Charts | Fusion Tables Charting tools from search giant Google make it easy to merge public data with your own and display it all live on your website. Mapbox Project of Development Seed, a creative data visualization team based in Washington DC; allows users to create and publish fast, interactive maps for web and mobile devices. Tableau Public Free data visualization tool that allows users to create interactive visualizations from their data and embed them in a website. Self-billed as ‘a community of creative people making sense of complex issues through data and design’.

Examples from the field
Data analysis and visualization applied to a range of traditional foundation activities.

Other examples

Climate and Development Links (World Bank) Annie E Casey Foundation: KidsCount http://climate4development.worldbank. Data Center org Interactive map that allows users to One of the first rich, data-driven explore the difference between two applications from a foundation; provides climate change scenarios that assume access to hundreds of measures of child different development pathways and well-being in the US, by and across states associated greenhouse gas emissions. and in a mobile format. Gay Rights in the United States (Guardian Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: newspaper) Infographics interactive/2012/may/08/gay-rightsPages/infographics.aspx united-states Information graphics designed to Interactive graphic that shows how the help explain the aims and impact of handling of gay rights varies by state. the foundation’s work, from vaccine delivery to supporting women farmers in OECD Better Life Index developing countries. Interactive tool that allows users to see California HealthCare Foundation: Medical how OECD countries perform according Variation Rates to the importance the user gives to each of 11 factors that contribute to well-being medical-variation-rates-california and a better life. Interactive map that presents, in multiple formats, elective surgery and other procedure rates across California relative Related resources to state averages. Center for Digital Information Dashboard 1 Highlights innovative examples of data-new-element.html the changing form of information in This list of resources and examples the digital age, with examples drawn was compiled by Jeff Stanger, founding from journalism, publishing, research, director of the Center for Digital government and elsewhere Information. Email

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