Developing a data strategy for the Ontario nonprofit sector.

At the CKX Summit last month, we worked with Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) to co-host a second meeting to discuss the development of a data strategy for the nonprofit sector of Ontario. Approximately 30 key stakeholders, most of whom participated in our first meeting at the end of the summer, participated in the meeting. Below are some notes shared with the participants as well as with some stakeholders who were not able to be present.

Summary

ONN is undertaking research and discussion with PoweredbyData and many others to determine the nature of a data strategy for Ontario's nonprofit sector. We started this conversation in August, and have since held two large consultative meetings as well as several small informal talks to identify and discuss the opportunities for this strategy.

In November, hosted by CKX, about 30 key stakeholders came together to consider what such a strategy might entail and ways we might move forward. We identified key questions for this data strategy as well as some ideas for how develop a strategy. For the near future, we agreed to focus on intermediaries and other stewards of data in the sector as the primary user group, and keep a broad goal to ensure that important data is accessible and used to strengthen nonprofit sector work.

With this in mind, we agreed to pursue a two-track process:

  • immediate testing and acting on open opportunities; and
  • the development of a framework that will help us identify shared purposes and principles for work, and tell the story as the work progresses.

ONN agreed to act as an action-driven convener for this next phase of work, and reach out to those leading in data work in the sector. In this active stewardship role, ONN will continue to keep interested stakeholders in the loop, and work with relevant organizations on the two activity tracks.

ONN is already reaching out to get started on the following the short-term actions include plans to:

  • Examine the need for community asset mapping and how opening 211 data could meet those needs, with consideration of the effects on 211 providers.
  • Consider how we could shape the upcoming Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act to answer questions about Ontario nonprofits, and examining the opportunity for the creation of an accessible, regularly updated nonprofit registry through the collection of corporation data online.
  • Follow up with Economic and Social Development Canada about their recently stated interest in data literacy as part of the federal government’s recently published Open Government Partnership.
  • Create a list of priority data sets which should be “opened” by the Government of Ontario through its Open Data initiative.
  • Draft a framework document to outline some working principles and ideas for the development of a data strategy - to be completed this winter, with draft material shared back to you.

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This work is exactly what we think the non-profit sector needs to engage in at this time, and we're excited to continue working with ONN to drive it. As far as we know, this work is unique in its scope and its engagement with stakeholders from across the sector. We're finding a lot of expertise about data and a lot of clarity from different stakeholders on their needs. One of the things that we're not finding — except for a few exciting exceptions — is an understanding of the opportunities presented by recent open data policies. If you know about any other, similar projects we would love to hear about them so that we could exchange ideas.