The whole world of a non-profit organization has one common goal – make a world a better place. Many of them have different specialization and point of interest. But all of them are working towards the social change and improvement of living. That is why cooperation between them is so important. Unlike commercial institutions, usually, they don’t have to compete against each other. There is one tool, that can make their cooperation even more efficient – open data.
Open standards, open-source, open innovation and open data
This environment has a great opportunity to take the best solutions from the open-source communities. Just like them, they can exchange their data, solutions, projects and ideas. Being open is showing to the world your successes and allowing it to use them for the good of the others. Reports from your project can completely change the perspective of the other initiatives. The data you’re going to find from the free and open sources can allow your project to change. Become better, more accurate and effective. Data is gaining a bigger and bigger role in our world, but we shouldn’t just limit ourselves to the information we are getting from just our own sources. The nonprofits are creating reports that could change the world. So let’s use this data cooperatively and exchange it as much as we can.
First of all, every organization should have to have an internal discussion about what does being “open” means to it. How they can cooperate with other organizations? What information they can share? What is the value, that they could bring to the outside? How would it improve the world of non-profit organizations? We live in the world, where information has the most amount of power. Let’s think about how we can use it, to make the most amount of good with it. Don’t think only about the material things, that was achieved by your initiatives and projects. The lessons you’ve learned along the way can be almost important as much for the world of NGO’s. Of course, various organizations can have a different context for their work. That is why you should carefully think about how you can be “open” and how much you can share with others.
There are already a lot of standards, that is showing how to be open. Use them as much as you can. Also, the existing open platforms can give you a lot of data, that can be useful for you. Different communities worked a lot on them, and they are showing their experiences. You don’t have to relive their mistakes but learn on their history and knowledge.
Analyze and Plan
Decide in your organization what “open” really means for you. But be sure that everyone in your initiative is on the same page. The best option, in this case, would be to write it down, in your organizations’ standards. When you are going to do this, be careful. Remember to be sure that all of the information you want to share is protecting the safety and privacy. Especially if people in your organization and people you are working with and for. You always have to protect your data. But this is especially important when you want to make it open.
Before publishing any of your gathered information, research what kind of open licensing would be the best for your case. There are a lot of options to choose from. Be sure that one you want to choose is right for the context and environment you are working in. The same goes for the platform you want to publish your data. Take your time, and see if it is right for you. Remember that opening the data is just a first step. You have to be active in open communities, so they can thrive. Only this way, the effort you want to make will not die out with time. If an open community is active, you can be sure, that your data will be used by many other organizations and help make the world a better place.
The best way to make sure that you are doing all the right moves when going “open” is to collaborate with other organizations. Use their experience in this. They will help you learn and avoid all the mistakes, that you could’ve done.
Design and develop
When designing your project, remember, that you can always consult your choices with other communities, especially open ones. Document every step you make, so it will be easier later to share your experiences with others. But also think, about protecting the privacy and security of the information as well.
Deploy & Implement
During the implementation of your project, make sure, that you are sharing the information about its progress and challenges with other communities. Make them learn with you. Also, the feedback they provide will allow you to make your project more flexible. Let your initiative evolve and change with the situation around you. Remember that to make the feedback from others valuable, you have to give them as much information and context as possible. A badly informed community will not be able to make their help effective.
Monitor and Evaluate
Check what data was collected by a similar project to yours. Also, check how was is collected. The international standards should help you with this earlier, but make sure, that all organizations in your field are on the same page. This could also be a good opportunity for the innovation – maybe you find something that should be measured, but wasn’t till this moment.
After collecting any data, be sure to review it. Not just by yourself, but with a whole team and, if it is possible, with open communities around this topic. And with people, you were working for. Maybe showing them your data, will provide some useful feedback. Checking the data you’ve collected is also a good opportunity to also check, how efficiently budget was used. Maybe you’ll find out, that method you’ve used is less expensive, that actions that were used earlier.
Learn more about using open data
You can read more about this principle on this website:
Below you can also find our infographic about this principle: