Government must deliver on its open data promise
By Rachel Rank
On Open Data Day 2018, we call on the UK Government to open up its grants data for every one of its departments in order to increase its value to civil society.
In May 2016, the Government committed to publishing more granular level data on its grants expenditure in line with the open data standard developed by 360Giving.
As the UK’s largest single grantmaker, being able to compare all government grants data alongside grants from other funders would enable collaboration with the charitable sector. Sharing the £100bn worth of grants that it makes annually in an open, comparable format would improve the way government works with the charity sector and would take it towards its aim of developing a civil society strategy that was announced by Tracey Crouch, Minister for Civil Society, last October.
Will Perrin, co-Founder and Director of 360Giving, said:
“Today we celebrate Open Data Day and the value open data is delivering to society. At a stroke, government could see how its own grantmaking measures up to private sector ones by publishing government grants as open data. Tools like GrantNav would help government and civil society see all its work on one screen. This would deliver on DCMS Minister Tracey Crouch’s vision of a joined-up approach to charities.
“Cabinet Office has a huge database of grants, they should just make it open like the USA and Canadian governments do. There should be no big secret about government spending data. Of all spending data, grants in particular should become public, open data.”
The government’s civil society strategy aims to coordinate and improve how public sector bodies interact with the charity sector. The Civil Society Minister says it is not about finding new funding for charities but making better use of the resources the government already has available.
The government has created the Government Grants Information System (GGIS) to enable grant information to be recorded and reported across all 15 departments that provide grants in a standardised and scalable way. It has also released data in line with the 360Giving Standard for two departments – the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Transport – meaning that data can be seen alongside funding provided by other charitable trusts and foundations.
360Giving is calling for government to be more ambitious.
Rachel Rank, CEO of 360Giving and member of the Charity Commission Digital Advisory Group, said:
“The remaining 13 departments should share more granular data on their grant expenditure, as outlined in the commitment made in the UK’s Open Government National Action Plan, starting with the biggest providers such as DCMS, Defra and the Department for Education.
“The government’s grant expenditure is equivalent to the UK’s annual healthcare spending and highlights why it’s important that this information is published in an open, standardised way that identifies each organisation receiving funds. This would make it easier to follow the money through the delivery chain and could engender greater collaboration with the charitable sector. It would also help us gain a better understanding of the true size and scale of the sector and all the important work it does.”
In the two years since 360Giving launched, 73 funding organisations are now sharing their data using the 360Giving Standard, representing over £17bn of grants made to all corners of the UK. For the full list of organisations and to download their data, visit the Registry.
Notes for Editors:
- 360Giving helps funders make better decisions by publishing grant data in a way that can easily be compared, contrasted and analysed by all. The 360Giving approach puts grants data in a standard spreadsheet form and then publishes it openly where others can find it. This ‘open data’ approach enables large scale analysis of grants or just a simple search without having to trawl through dozens of annual reports and laboriously type up findings. It’s easier for grantmakers to find out who is funding whom and for people who want to apply for grants.
- 360Giving’s search tool GrantNav allows searches of all grants published to the 360Giving Standard and can be filtered by location, recipient, award amount or funding organisation. All information is fully downloadable in spreadsheet format.
- Open Data Day 2018 is on 3rd March. It aims to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business and civil society.
- Civil Society Minister Tracey Crouch’s statement on a new civil society strategy is available at the UK Parliament website.
- The UK joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011. Its third National Action Plan includes a specific commitment on sharing more granular data on grants and using the 360Giving Standard. The deadline for implementing the Plan is March 2018.
- The Government of Canada’s Open Government Portal has a searchable open data portal that includes government grants and contracts by department and at federal level.