And our burning questions are…

And our burning questions are…

Sameer Padania

This blog was written by Sameer Padania, 360Giving trustee. 

Thanks to the tireless work of the 360Giving team and their many donor partners, there’s a huge (and growing and growing) amount of data available that anyone can search – free-of-charge – about the billions of pounds of grant funding made locally and nationally in the UK, and elsewhere around the world.

But what does that data actually represent, and what can we learn from it? How might grantmakers use it to help them make better decisions? How can civil society groups use the data to improve their funding applications? And how can citizens learn what is being funded in their own communities, and by whom?

Some are already tackling such questions.

As Professor Cathy Pharaoh of Cass Business School notes, “strategic thinking about the priorities which will ultimately determine foundations’ social impact is crucial.” UK funders large and small are finding new insights in the data they have each published to the 360Giving Standard, and are beginning to discover what’s possible when all that data is combined. And how these questions play out within sectors like human rights is also beginning to be grappled with.

But 360Giving wanted to spark a wider conversation. So, as part of the Challenge Fund, we ran an open Quest for Questions, to find questions that grantmakers, fund seekers and indeed anyone else wanted to ask of the data.

We were extremely fortunate to have a multi-disciplinary panel of experts to help us select the best questions, with Alice Evans of the Lankelly Chase Foundation, Annika Small of CAST, Emma Prest of Datakind UK and Megan Lucero of Bureau Local, supported by Mor Rubinstein of 360Giving, and me, in my capacity as a 360Giving trustee.

We received 67 distinct questions, from which our panel has chosen three. While we received a great variety of questions, many of which cut to the heart of burning issues for philanthropy and civil society, the panel prioritised questions that data published by donors could help to answer, and which are within the scope of our original call.

These are the questions that have been selected:

  • Who has funded what themes throughout the years?
  • User-led organisations: Who funds them, in what thematic area, how much funding do they receive and what type of organisation are they (e.g. CIC, charity, co-operative, community group)?
  • Where are the geographical and/or sectoral funding gaps due to reduced availability or termination of statutory funding? What can the current 360Giving dataset tell us about the funding being provided in those areas?

The selection panel chose these questions in particular because they:

– Help to answer simple infrastructure questions about the size, shape and scope of funding in the UK.

– Offer ways of testing what we know and new insights – as place-based funding grows ever more influential – about the geographical distribution of funding.

– Might offer a sharper picture of the diversity of types of groups and entities receiving funding across the UK, from user-led groups to community interest companies, from international NGOs to public bodies.

The panel were also keen to see where 360Giving data could be combined meaningfully with other open datasets, for example, local authority budgetary data or census data. 

With the best questions in hand, the Challenge Fund is now launching an open competition for visualisations that try to answer these questions. The winners, who will receive cash prizes, will be announced in September 2018. Alongside the visualisation competition we will run a separate Data Journey, led by a data analyst with a group of funders who will take one question and see what data is available and explore the steps needed to answer it.  

Next steps on how to get involved in the prize visualisation challenge will be posted shortly. In the meantime, a huge thank you from the 360Giving team and board to everyone who has given their time to think about and engage with these issues over the past few months.