On Monday, Sarah Parker and I ran a workshop at the Lasa even “Unlocking the Potential of Open Data”.
The session was called “The Open Data Chocolate Box”.
(I should say from the outset that it was very much Sarah’s session, I just did a turn at the end).
When talking about open data in the sector, enthusiasts have a tendency to jump to how to find open data sets, using government data, running hack days….all the stuff that scares people looking to just get started. What we really wanted everyone to take away from the session was that actually it takes very little to actively open data and you don’t need much technical knowledge.
To illustrate how much you can do with just a small piece of data, Sarah created the ‘open data challenge’. The challenge was for organisations to fill in how many people they worked with in 2010/ 2011 along with their charity number.
We were really excited that 13 organisations took part in the open data challenge. You might think that 13 isn’t a very large number but the voluntary sector is right at the beginning of the open data adventure and 13 is a massive jump in what information is now out there.
*HEALTH WARNING* The following data mashup is only based on one piece of data from 13 organisations and cannot be used to draw ANY conclusions about the sector or its work. *END OF HEALTH WARNING*
Lamplight data wrangler Matt spent a couple of hours taking this single piece of data and combining it with what is already out there in the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) and information on Open Charities.
He was able to represent spend in different areas against numbers of people reached as well as spend in different quartiles on the IMD.
You can see the whole hack at http://www.lamplightdb.co.uk/hacks/vcsopen/.
So, how can organisations get started with opening up their data?
- Get a database – you want to be able to report on your activity at the touch of a button (and as an aside it will help you to be more strategic in your work)
- Think about what you’re already sharing, such as Charity Commission accounts and annual reports.
- Put that information on your website in a machine readable format e.g. CSV or Google spreadsheet.
- Give the information an open licence so others know they can reuse it.
- Add a /open page and add it to their directory.
The moral of this story is that to get started with opening up data doesn’t take very much, just one piece of data in a spreadsheet on your website. From there the people that want to can start doing things with it and you might start to think of information you want to get to support your own work.
There are issues of trust around this (who is using your data? how do you know what kinds of conclusions they’re going to draw?) which I’m not going to touch on here but Sarah is planning on exploring those further in a blog post. There are resources from the day at http://storify.com/lasaict/unlocking-the-potential-of-open-data.
In an attempt to capture some of the enthusiasm in the room we asked people to make the ‘open data declaration’:
(Photo taken by @nicktheowl)
I (the undersigned) declare that I will:
- Complete the VCS Open ‘open data challenge’ at http://vcsopen.wordpress.com/dataset/.
- Talk to at least one person (preferably a colleague) about open data and the open data challenge.
- Investigate adding a /open page to my website.
- Add at least one piece of opened data to my website in a machine readable format.
- Tell VCS Open what we’ve done no opening up our data.
Lasa, Unlocking the Potential of Open Data
17 September 2012
[2/10/12 - ETA: VSC Open post "Trust and Open Data" http://vcsopen.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/trust-and-open-data/]