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Open data and charities

Open data involves a paradigm shift in the way organisations manage their information and data: moving from a default of charities keeping data resources locked up in under-used internal systems, to building a shared ‘Web of Data’. The emergence of the open data movement has supported powerful new models of creativity, innovation and public engagement.

Although most of the recent stories of progress and success in the open data field come from government and research where open data is more established, this report sets out to explain the ways in which open data is increasingly coming to play a role in the charitable sector. Existing open government data can be used by charities to add value to their work, to target services better, to improve advocacy and fundraising, and to support knowledge sharing and collaboration between different charities and agencies. Crowdsourcing of open data also offers a new way for charities to gather intelligence, and a wide range of freely available online tools can support charities to analyse open data resources. Realising the potential of open data will require charities to meet a number of technical and organisational challenges. Indeed many charities will need to address key issues relating to open data, whether they choose to pursue benefits from open data or not (as regulatory, funding and performance indication is published online by researchers, by government and by others in the sector).

This report reviews open data as it relates to the charitable sector, drawing on long experience of developing open data in research and government, as well as early work exploring open data with charities and third-sector organisations. It defines open data, describes the background context of a knowledge economy, and outlines key opportunities and challenges of open data in the charity sector.

We’re grateful to the range of authors for putting together this review, and we look forward to working with you to build on the recommendations and challenges it sets out.  A more open version is also available should you wish to build on this.