Many nonprofits rely on data to inform their stakeholders, measure their impact, and to prioritize their resources. However, traditional data analysis, visualization, representation and reporting do not reflect the real-time information stream that stakeholders have become accustomed to receiving. Technology has advanced our capacity for sharing and visualizing data in faster, cheaper, and more easily digestible formats. There is a clear opportunity for nonprofits to take advantage of these solutions.
There is an ever-growing array of opportunities to make data useful, accessible, and relevant. One helpful way to think of this range of models and initiatives is through the lens of “civic tech.” “Civic tech” as defined by the Knight Foundation is the “nexus of technology, civic innovation, open government, and resident engagement.” Under this umbrella, civic data is mined from social networks, community organizing platforms, government data, crowdfunded and crowdsourced assets, and peer-to-peer shared resources.
Civic Tech Landscape and Review
The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) partnered to develop tools and materials that nonprofits can adopt and use to engage in or build their own ‘civic tech’ initiative. This Civic Tech Landscape Review provides an overview of the growing ‘civic tech’ movement, makes the case for engagement, and outlines the key initiatives, players, and resources. It also provides guiding principles for how to get involved. An in-depth Civic Tech Toolkit accompanies the review. Developed out of the experiences of NCoC’s Civic Data Challenge, it walks you step-by-step through the process of engaging in and running a civic tech initiative.
These materials highlight the takeaways and lessons learned from NCoC’s Civic Data Challenge, as well as a vast network of partners and resources cited throughout. These lessons and guiding principles of the Civic Data Challenge are informed and reinforced by other resources. They provide a roadmap of emerging principles that are universal to civic tech initiatives of varying size, scope, and structure. For example, the Knight Foundation report on the role of contests for philanthropy offers many recommendations similar to the lessons learned by NCoC and other institutions that have implemented challenges. As this movement grows, it is our hope that we can contribute a piece of this bigger picture of knowledge-sharing and information gathering to better support organizations interested in doing this work.