Meet Manny Hothi, our new board member at 360Giving
By Anna Scott
We are really proud of our board of trustees at 360Giving, especially how engaged and invested they are in our work. We chat with Manny Hothi, who joins our board in 2020, about his background in data and innovation, the single stat that shaped his career and what excites him about joining the open grants movement.
Hi Manny! Can you tell us a bit about your background and role at Trust for London?
Hello! I’m Director of Policy at the Trust. I’m primarily responsible for our external policy work, plus most of our grant funding that relates to research and policy – particularly with think tanks and universities. My job is to be abreast of all the issues that relate to our agenda: to find ways of tackling poverty and inequality.
I also oversee our communications function and I’m responsible for London’s Poverty Profile – a data resource that provides insight into various things around poverty and inequality in London. The resource is mainly made up of government data and survey data; there are about 19 indicators layered to things to do with housing, employment, low pay and inequality. We’re currently revamping it, so it’s more frequently updated, less reliant on the publication of physical documents, and more automated in its behind-the-scenes operation.
How much of that is open data, do you know?
Most of it will be publicly released government data – various surveys, DWP data, and so on. Some might require the people we’re working with to go into a ‘safe room’ and do some work on data that no one else can see. We’re also working with UCL to explore how consumer data might provide insight. This data isn’t publicly available, but most of the stuff we use is public data that we’re analysing and interpreting.
What are the main uses of London’s Poverty Profile?
London’s Poverty Profile is used primarily by charities that are applying for funding in London, who want to back up the case they are making with data.
It’s also used by quite a few journalists who want statistics on poverty and inequality in London; policymakers, local authorities and the GLA use it for statistics; students use it for research; and sometimes it’s used by interested members of the public.
When did you first become interested in data as a means of improving society?
I’m not sure there was ever a point where I wasn’t. There is definitely a stat that influenced my career direction. When I was doing my Masters in Regeneration, I found out that approximately 70% of people living in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England were from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, according to the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal in 2001 (p. 14). That stat really grabbed me, and influenced my studies and jobs from then on. Single stats like that can be quite powerful. That really was the beginning of my work in data.
I got involved in the innovation field in 2008 and started working more on things like how social media can be used for social good. Eventually I got into issues around data and how you can use data to get more insights into various social issues, and how important the ‘data plumbing’ was to good digital service delivery. Also, work on standards – particularly around local authorities – and the public service reform agenda more broadly. It was about creating really effective public services, exploring whether some services could be digitised, meaning resources could be freed up to concentrate on some of those more complex, relational services that councils run. Those sorts of arguments really grabbed hold of me, and there was a lot of work on data – and thinking about data. Those conversations are still evolving.
I was at Nesta when 360Giving was incubated there, under Alice Casey (who is another member of the 360Giving board). I always thought it was really cool. There are lots of arguments for why publishing grants data openly is a good idea, but for me, the transparency angle is really powerful. I’m a believer in transparency for transparency’s sake. It’s just a good principle to have in life, to tell the truth. When you have such little external pressure and accountability, as many foundations do, it’s really important to place that on yourselves.
What excites you about being a 360Giving board member?
I really like innovations that are straightforward and simple in their nature. I think 360Giving has that – it’s really easy to explain its core proposition: to open up data about how trusts and foundations use their money.
For me, that’s really easy to get behind. There are still layers of complexity in the technological innovation behind it, and that really appeals to me as well. So for me, it’s great to be involved in and attached to an innovation that is really pushing boundaries.
Thanks so much, Manny!