Open data in London

In this joint blog, first published as London Plus’s launch blog post, Manny Hothi, Director of Policy at Trust for London, and Rachel Rank, CEO of 360Giving, outline the work our organisations are doing to open up data about London, making it easier for civil society, researchers and policymakers to access information about poverty, inequality and funding flows.

London’s Poverty Profile

London’s Poverty Profile (LPP) uses official government data sources to provide insight into the nature of poverty and inequality in London. First coming to life 10 years ago, this joint endeavour between Trust for London and the New Policy Institute has become an established part of the city’s information infrastructure.

The world of data is moving forward at pace. Charitable foundations like Gapminder in Sweden and Nesta in the UK provide inspiration on what the sector can achieve. This level of work has quickly become established as best practice, raising expectations of data resources like LPP.

Trust for London is responding in two ways. First, we’ll be shifting our focus from producing LPP in document format to an online first approach. This will enable us to update the data more frequently, and reflects the fact that most people access LPP through the data section of our website. We are currently recruiting for a new delivery partner to help us with this.

Second, we want to explore how other sources of data can provide useful insight for our users. Official government data will still form the backbone of LPP, but there are over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data produced by the digital world each day. This can be used to do things like predict which London neighbourhoods are poised for gentrification, or identify issues that residents in deprived areas have with their public realm.

These are big changes that will take place over the next 12 months. We hope it helps users of LPP – from charities and government, to academics and journalists – to identify areas of need and improve their capacity to tackle poverty and inequality in London.

Opening up grants data

360Giving aims to open up funding data so anyone can find out who is funding what, what for and how much.

The initiative was founded by philanthropist Fran Perrin in 2015, who felt she was “giving in the dark” as she couldn’t get the information she needed to make strategic decisions. Inspired by initiatives such as Citymapper, which uses real-time transport data shared openly by cities across the world, Fran wanted to test if funding information could be brought together so that anyone could quickly see what’s being funded in a community or sector.

A group of funders and technical experts got together and mapped the basic information people want to know about grants – who to, what for, how much, when, etc. We found that nearly all funders collect this data and it was fairly simple to create a standard way of sharing it so everyone could benefit.

Some leading funders took the plunge. At first, there was a bit of nervousness about opening up their grants – will they be criticised for some of the activities? What if they’re inundated with funding applications? But that soon wore off – feedback has been entirely positive.

There are now nearly 100 funders sharing £26 billion worth of grants openly. These range from charitable trusts and foundations, corporate funders, central and local government and many that focus on London. All the data can be explored and downloaded by anyone who wants to better understand how civil society is funded. Never before has this information been available in one place and for free.

Most people don’t like working with raw data, but they’re interested in the stories and evidence hidden within it. This is why we have developed online platforms like GrantNav and Beehive Giving – to help non-techies use the information too. The data has also been used to help answer questions such as who funds with who and to explore funding by themes or to a particular topic, such as homelessness.

Our aim is to open up 80% of all UK grants by 2020. This will help with following the flows of money going to civil society and with identifying need, gaps and overlaps; as well as opportunities to collaborate and learn from previous funding programmes.

Working towards social impact

Discovering the truth and depth behind civil society is at the heart of both Trust for London’s and 360Giving’s work. Please take a look at how the various platforms and research we are doing can support your work, and let us know what you find!