Transparency Talk

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Glasspockets Find: Foundation Center CEO Speaks Out On Knowledge Management
March 24, 2014

(Rebecca Herman is special projects associate for Glasspockets at the Foundation Center-San Francisco.)

Rebecca Herman PhotoLike it or not, we live in a data-obsessed era. It can feel like we are swimming in a sea of data. Are we being swamped by data, or are we harnessing these currents to propel us along toward our objectives? Your foundation probably already gathers significant amounts of information about your programs, your grantees and your fields of interest. As foundations move toward greater transparency, it is worth considering how this data could serve a larger purpose outside of the foundation. And then this leads to the more difficult task of figuring out which internal data could be a meaningful contribution to the field.

"If philanthropy really wants to be strategic, harnessing data to purpose needs to be job number one."

Earlier this month, in the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Foundation Center president Brad Smith wrote about Developing a Culture of Knowledge Management.

In the SSIR, Smith argues that foundations need to learn how to manage and share information in order for philanthropy to be strategic. This may require creating a new mindset, in which data becomes "knowledge assets," and establishing new internal incentive systems for managing data effectively.

Smith also points out a number of common pitfalls in how foundations use data:

  • An over-reliance on personal networks and verbal communication to gather information about grantees and grant applicants
  • Potentially valuable contextual data lives inside foundations as static information
  • Foundations can become so obsessed with impact that they outsource data collection and proof to their grantees

Read the complete blog post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review website to learn about the importance of knowledge management and the three types of data foundations need.

-- Rebecca Herman

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About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

    The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation Center.

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