Our good friends at Nominet Trust organised an event with BIG and NCVO today to help small UK charities start to navigate their way around the open data landscape. It was great to see about 100 small charities in the room, the event was 100% over subscribed. It was very apt that a charity that raises money from the internet itself is leading the way on digital issues like this.
I did a closing talk reflecting on conversations during the day, drawing on my experience of open data activism and policy. I spoke in my capacity as a trustee of The Indigo Trust, but blog about it here as the themes fit into the wider work I do on open data with Talk About Local and the small charities in the room were, well local. The slides are mainly pictures so i draw out the points below
I drew out a few simple things for BIG, Nominet, NCVO:
Work with people at all stages of capability – there was a huge spread in the room, from people who didn’t even gather data from/on their customers to charities that had hired a data geek.
Simplify and clarify language – the geeks in particular need to modify their language to be less technical and more inclusive. You wouldn’t turn up at a meeting and speak Latin, don’t turn up and speak geek – people will feel excluded and walk away.
Show the goal or benefits – open data is complicated stuff you need to keep telling people what the goal is so that they persevere
Provide resources all can use – BIG, NCVO, NominetTrust need to pool resources and provide one definitive place for the UK voluntary sector to go to for advice and links on opendata.
Encourage behaviour with funding – make it clear grants will be favoured that include and element of open data
Provide somewhere to discuss issues – people who are good at this stuff love to help others. And the territory covered is so broad that generic advice always needs tailoring. A simple discussion forum for peer support would be the appropriate technical solution.
And for the organisations attending the event my advice was just to take a first step. But do this in a risk managed way – don’t dive in with your offender data, start with lists of where you deliver services, stick it in Google Fusion Tables and map it, maybe.
One of the things that strikes me is that there is space here for the well resourced BIG Lottery working with partners to do the proper comms job on open data that the government hasn’t quite managed to achieve.
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