Steps on the roadPosted on 31st January 2014 by Jo Ivens
I’ve been thinking a lot about data, defining outcomes and evidencing our impact this week. We are at the beginning of implementing a new database, and we are at that stage of the process where we have high hopes, are expecting miracles and nothing has gone wrong yet!
Of course, reality will bite and our expectations will be trimmed and adjusted by the setting up process, training and the early days of usage, until we hopefully end up with something that works for us all, across the organisation. Whatever it is will be an improvement on where we are, and that is what we work for every day in every part of our organisation.
In a waft of the Bader-Meinhof effect, while we’ve been talking about how we collect and use data, a piece of work I did before I joined Impetus – DataBridge - has cropped up twice this week. This looked at the use of data and Open Data in the voluntary sector.
Open data is non-personally identifiable data produced in the course of an organisation’s ordinary business, which has been released under an unrestricted licence (LinkedGov definition).
What started as a project to explore how voluntary sector organisations could make use of open data to improve their knowledge and impact, turned into a study of why they don’t tend to! My findings were presented as 10 recommendations, some for the voluntary sector and some for the public sector. If I had to sum them up in a phrase, I’d say ‘practical barriers of sharing; public sector interest limited to a few personalities; organisations being too busy with the day job’.
Sad to say that not much seems to have changed in the last 3 years.
But in terms of need – it is a very different story. And a much bleaker one. The impact of government cuts to public services is being felt disproportionately by our most vulnerable and isolated people. Those who were just getting by with the limited support they received can slip into crisis when that support is reduced by what looks to decision-makers to be ‘only a little bit’.
So our imperative now is to have the best information we can about our service users, so that we can illustrate with hard data the stories that we hear every week. We are doing that first by focusing on the quality of our own data, and then by developing the way we use it. Tools such as Data Unity look like they could be helpful here.
If you’re interested in use of data in the voluntary sector, how we evidence our work and what else we need to know to be the best, get in touch below or tweet us @BHImpetus.