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Data Journeys: Building confidence and communities


When we started the 360Giving data journey, we agreed on the usual things: objectives, outcomes and an outline of the programme. Data expeditions had already proven their worth, with growing demand for these one-day explorations of data. The extension of data expeditions into a data journey was an exciting leap into the unknown. Here’s what we discovered over eight weeks from the people who took part.

Know-how builds confidence

Alison Beck is a grants administrator at London Catalyst, a charitable trust tackling issues of poverty and ill-health within London. “I am keen to learn more about data analysis and how it can help our organisation to get more out of its data” she shared at the start of the data journey.

Alison decided to focus on the Samaritan Grants, a hardship fund that London Catalyst provides to frontline organisations. The grants help around 6,000 people every year who find themselves in emergency situations. “I’m conscious that there is so much more I could do with the data” she reflected. Alison is typical of the people the data journey set out to support. She works closely with the organisations that receive grants and is aware of how much information her organisation collects, and the potential to use it to improve the lives of the people who receive grant payments.

By the end of the data journey, despite limitations of time and available information, Alison has answers to her question about the distribution of the Samaritan Grants across the most deprived areas of London. She learned to visualise the numbers as a story and asked deeper questions about the results. She wants to go further: “Nevertheless, what I have managed to do is fascinating, and it will be very useful for us as an organisation.”

Samaritan grants and deprivation in London

Like Alison, other participants got a confidence boost from covering the basics of how to use data in their work. Andrew Wright, COO of Arcadia shared “Today provided a good foundation for starting to explore tools and data available” and in anonymous feedback a participant reported, “It gave me the confidence to get started”.

Having a process makes it easier to use data

Ethny Childs is a trainee grants officer at the Dunhill Medical Trust and a Charityworks graduate. The trust funds academic and clinical research into ageing as well as supporting community-based organisations that provide extra support in later life. The data journey happened at the right time for Ethny: “I am currently doing a strategic position assessment of the [trust]’s community-based grants portfolio with the aim of informing future strategy”.

From andragogy (the methods and principles used in adult education or how adults learn), we understand that structure can make learning easier, so we created a process for using data, the 360Giving data pipeline.

360Giving data pipeline

Feedback on this approach was positive. Ethny found “Really useful guidance on how to formulate a question and then how to use the data analysis pipeline to guide the analysis process and refine the question”. Other participants noted “There are lots of things to consider when using data and before analysis, you need to think a lot about what you’re trying to do.” and “[This] made getting to grips with data less intimidating.”

Using the data pipeline and resources, Ethny dug into data from 360Giving and the NHS Adult Social Care Activity and Finance Report, England 2016-17 to answer her question “Where are the funding gaps, in terms of both statutory and grant funding, for the care and support for older people?”

Funding gaps for the care and support for older people

The pipeline process makes using data easier, even when there are hurdles to overcome. For example, Ethny discovered gaps in matching 360Giving data to NHS data. “I’m not sure exactly how to combine because it seems that the [360Giving] data has different geographic coding to the NHS digital data (and there is a lot missing from the [360Giving] data). Any suggestions?”. Following the data pipeline steps, I worked with Ethny to find common geographic data at local authority level that provided useful answers to her question.

Community is crucial

360Giving is a data standard that helps the grantmaking sector share and understand the funding landscape. It is also a community. We’re aware that opportunities exist for sharing knowledge, skills and resources around data to improve data leadership and reduce transaction costs in the our sector. The data journey is one of those opportunities and so in our final workshop, we asked: “How do we keep this momentum going?”

Nick Wilsdon is the Learning and Evaluation Manager at Youth Music. This national charity funds music-making projects for children and young people. Nick was looking for more detailed information on a local level to support Youth Music’s funding decisions. He was also interested in making connections. He wanted to know if the data journey can “help identify like-minded organisations working with young people in challenging circumstances”?

Before our final workshop, we learned that we needed to focus more on building communities and making connections. We heard “I don’t feel like I really know anyone in the group” so we made sure to set aside time to build crucial relationships. One participant suggested we “bring people in around themes to help them work together” and another asked “Can we have a buddy up system? Maybe form smaller teams?” – these suggestions are definitely worth exploring in our future data journeys.

A positive outcome at the final workshop was the time set aside with the 360Giving team to make those connections. We received requests including:

  • “Can you connect me to regional groups and communities in Manchester?”
  • “Who can help me get hold of better local government data on spending and grants?”
  • “Is there a list of good data for the charity sector?”
  • “I’d love to get in touch with [other participant] to understand how they put their visualisation together”
  • “Do we need a regular meetup that covers practical data skills?”

Lessons learned

We hope this overview of the project participants’ reflections provides useful context for data leadership and data literacy in the grantmaking sector.

We learnt a lot from the participants, including:

  1. It’s important to start with the basics: “Interesting to hear a proper definition of what statutory funding is defined as”.
  2. It’s useful to know how to ask the right questions: “I’m starting to think about how to structure questions”.
  3. People need help to find the right data: “Knowing what’s available, where to look for data sources and analytic tools is useful”
  4. Complexity is normal, don’t let it stop you using data: “The question keeps on evolving”
  5. With the right activities, learning about data can be fun!: “Adding ‘fun’ activities is very useful to engage people who are not too familiar with data”


Thank you to everyone who took part in our first 360Giving data journey:

Thank you to our partner organisations for supporting the data journey with their resources, expertise and facilities: