Experts share essential data advice

| 25th Jun 13

In a recent article for the Guardian Voluntary Sector, a few experts in the sector discuss how charities can get the most from big and open data. We have summarised the findings below.

  1. Ignore the bad reputation surrounding data. James Noble, professional social researcher at New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) says: “Use of the word ‘data’ can be misleading. It makes people think it’s all about statistics and spreadsheets and can be off-putting. I prefer the term ‘evidence’, of which quantitative data is a part.”
  2. Don’t be wary of numbers. Loren Treisman, chief executive of the Indigo Trust says: “Data doesn’t have to be scary and you don’t need to be a mathematician or a scientist in order to use it to your advantage.” Enlist the help of online resources, textbooks and mentors to help you.
  3. Know the difference between big and open data. According to the Open Data Handbook, “open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone, subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute” and Big data can come from social networks, sensors, satellite imagery, mobile phones, GPS, cars, financial markets and many more things.”
  4. Ask yourself: why are you using data? Mike Thompson, senior consultant at mySociety says: “You have to be clear about what question you’re trying to answer before you set up your data collection and analysis activities.”
  5. Be transparent. James Noble says: “Over-claiming and not describing the sources of data regularly affect the credibility of claims. As long as you are transparent people can see how you came to your conclusions. Have confidence and show the process.”
  6. What does the future look like for data? Richard Craig, chief executive of the Charity Tech Trust, says: “Data is going to drive everything and I don’t think people appreciate by how much. For charities the possibilities are huge, ranging from internal data analytics to measure efficiency, external data metrics to measure effectiveness and big data to look at opportunity and bench marking.”

Click here to view the full online discussion.