Building a civil society coalition to design a policy agenda on administrative data-sharing

In February 2017, Powered by Data hosted Transform the Sector, Canada’s first national conference on the digital data needs of the social sector. We identified increasing access to administrative data for the nonprofit sector as a key need - and an area with potential for a transformative collective intervention. In the Canadian context, there has been no coordinated policy agenda for increasing social impact through administrative data use. We are convening a diverse civil society coalition to design a policy agenda around administrative data-sharing for social impact.

admin data icons_admin data.png

Administrative data

As a part of running their programs, government agencies and social services collect information on the people they serve. Administrative data can provide rich information about communities, creating new opportunities for outcomes evaluation, service delivery, and evidence-based advocacy.

admin data icons_research and policy.png

Coalition-building & policy research

We are building a civil society coalition of funders, nonprofit service providers, and advocacy groups that will shape a policy agenda on administrative data reuse. Over the last year, we have been working with these groups to explore use cases and risks of administrative data reuse.

admin data icons_inclusion.png

inclusive policy development

Recognizing that policy development often excludes communities at the margins, this coalition aims to centre groups that carry the greatest risks related to data sharing. Our partners will help us engage equitably with members, and centre principles of Indigenous data governance in our work.

What we’ve heard from nonprofits


Every year, over 500,000 people living in Ontario are excluded from access to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) due to their immigration status. Access Alliance is one nonprofit that provides primary health care services to uninsured individuals across Toronto. We spoke to the organization about how greater access to administrative health data could better help them address health inequities for non-insured immigrants and refugees in Ontario.

Recidivism data would support the work of youth justice organizations

Research shows that charging youth with criminal offences has a long-term negative impact, increasing their likelihood of reoffending in the future. Across Canada, youth court diversion programs—which focus on rehabilitation—act as an alternative to prosecution, enabling youth to have criminal charges dropped. However, approaches to court diversion vary widely across programs. How can we know which approaches are most effective? We spoke to Peacebuilders Canada about how access to administrative data on recidivism could help research, evaluation, and advocacy around court diversion and youth justice.

What’s next?

In 2019, we aim to finalize a coalition governance framework in consultation with our co-convening partners and prospective members. After formally launching mid-year, the coalition will work together to develop a set of shared principles and collaboratively identify next steps for moving this work forward. The initial goal of this coalition is to co-create a shared policy agenda and bring it to government by 2020. The coalition’s ultimate goal is to secure whichever policy changes are required to support ethical, equitable, and effective reuse of administrative data for social impact.

If you would like more information about this coalition-building process and research, sign up for our newsletter to receive updates as they become available!  If you would like to get involved with this work, send us a message at

Some participating organizations

Coalition participants - select Jan 2019.png

Powered by Data would like to thank the four co-convening partners that are helping design this coalition: Philanthropic Foundations Canada, the Ontario Nonprofit Network, Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change, and Dr Janet Smylie of Well Living House.

Powered by Data is also grateful to the following for their support in this initiative: the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Counselling Foundation, the Graham Boeckh Foundation, the Lawson Foundation, the McConnell Foundation, the Metcalf Foundation, Virgin Unite, and the Trottier Family Foundation.