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Enabling More Effective Giving by UK Foundations
July 24, 2013

(Loren Treisman, PhD, serves as Trust Executive for the Indigo Trust in London. A version of this post originally appeared on the Indigo Trust’s blog on July 1st, 2013.)

Treisman-100Last month, The Indigo Trust hosted a working lunch which brought together data experts and civil society representatives to explore how we could encourage UK Foundations to publish their data in an open format in order to make grant giving more effective.

We believe that being transparent in itself is the right thing to do, but the reasons for encouraging openness go far beyond this. In summary, openness makes grantmaking better.

We believe that being transparent in itself is the right thing to do, but the reasons for encouraging openness go far beyond this. In summary, openness makes grantmaking better. We believe that opening up grant data will enable more effective collaboration amongst funders and between civil society and funders, allow for more effective strategic planning which will ensure that money gets to where it’s needed the most, enable grantmakers to assess their impact and demonstrate this to the public and enable analysis of interventions across a whole sector such as health or higher education.

A great example of how open data can lead to better understanding of a sector is demonstrated here, where Water, Sanitation and Hygiene funders released their data to enable more effective collaboration and programmatic design across the sector globally. DFID’s development tracker is another excellent example of the power of open data and enables users to trace aid flows globally.

It’s exciting to see a movement toward such openness globally, with interventions such as the Open Government Partnership. The UK has also taken a lead in this movement, with DFID publishing all its data to an IATI standard and being ranked first in terms of Aid transparency by Publish What You Fund. The UK has also taken a lead in developing the G8 Open Data Charter. Now it’s time for Foundations to play their part.

We have set ourselves a goal to ensure that within five years, 80% of grants made by UK charities, foundations & other grantmakers are reported as open data to agreed standards and 50% by number/volume.

This should enable grantmakers in the UK to have a clear understanding of who is funding what, where and at what level, and also enable more strategic philanthropy and collaboration and improve transparency for the public and authorities.

Watch this space for further details on how we intend to move forward with this programme.

The following people attended the working lunch and we’d like to thank them for their crucial insights and contributions:

Simon Marshall, Big Lottery Funding
Cathy Pharoah, Cass Business School
Owen Barder, Centre for Global Development
Beth Breeze, Centre for Philanthropy – Kent University
Adam Pickering, Charities Aid Foundation
Joni Hillman, Development Initiatives
Mary Glanville, Institute for Philanthropy
Carol Mack, Association of Charitable Foundations
Tom Steinberg, mySociety
David Kane, NCVO– National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Charlotte Ravenscroft, NCVO – National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Dan Corry, New Philanthropy Capital
Ed Anderton, Nominet Trust
Martin Tisne, Omidyar Network
Chris Taggart, Open Corporates
Nigel Shadbolt, Open Data Institute
Richard Stirling, Open Data Institute
Rufus Pollock, Open Knowledge Foundation
Tim Davies, Practical Participation
Mark Brough, Publish What You Fund
David Hall-Matthews, Publish What You Fund
Dorothea Hodge, Aequitas Consulting

Fran Perrin, Founder and Director, Indigo Trust
William Perrin, Trustee, Indigo Trust
Loren Treisman, Executive, Indigo Trust
Richard Crellin, Researcher, Indigo Trust/SFCT

If you’re a Foundation, open data expert or civil society group and you’re interested in getting involved in this initiative, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

--Loren Treisman

Editor’s Note: The Indigo Trust is part of The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts (SFCT). SFCT is the operating office of 18 grantmaking trusts established by three generations of the Sainsbury family. David Sainsbury, founder of the Gatsby Charitable Foundation has been profiled in our Eye on the Giving Pledge and you can read his profile here.


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  • 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."

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