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So long, and thanks for all the data*

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I’m leaving 360Giving this week, and I’ve been reflecting on our progress over the past four years.

When I started as CEO in NoRachel Rankvember 2015, I was the organisation’s first employee. The initiative had been incubated by Nesta under the watchful eye of Alice Casey. It had recently registered as a charity and a handful of funders had taken the plunge and shared their data.

I had to set up systems, write a strategy, raise a chunk of money, find an office and hire a team; but my main task was to get funders to buy into what we were doing. That turned out to be easier than any of us expected.

Working in partnership

Preparing my handover and sorting through my contacts has reminded me about all the people that have helped 360Giving. There are too many to list here, and I’m grateful to everyone who was willing to muse out loud with me about the sector and its challenges; who provided feedback on our first strategy; and particularly those who were honest with me when they disagreed with something. That helped me understand what makes funders tick.

At the core of 360Giving’s work is supporting grantmaking, but not all funders are comfortable with what we do. It’s hard to give up control and let other people use your data and do things with it that you don’t expect, and might not like. They may not say it publicly, but some funders don’t want the added scrutiny. While I am sympathetic to these concerns, they do not override the opportunity that sharing grants in the 360Giving Data Standard offers – the chance to see and compare grantmaking across the UK.

Launching into the world of open data is a big step for some, but we help navigate these uncharted waters – and there are 120 funders that are already on this journey, ready to share their experiences as well.

I’m saying goodbye to a fantastic team and board of trustees next week. I will miss them and their attitude, drive and willingness to get stuff done. I can already tell that Tania Cohen has got the open data bug and there’ll be no let up in our efforts; but of course we’d be nothing without the many funders that took a leap of faith with us, sharing their grants data openly and using that information to support their wider work.

Perhaps my funding utopia will become reality after all, but we’ll need you to help us get there.

* With apologies to Douglas Adams for the title of this blog.