Today we take a look at a call to action – an article from Foundation Center, via Philanthropy News Digest. The original piece’s writer, Jeannine Corey, Director of Grants Information Management at Foundation Center, highlights that their staff have spent the last 18 months working on the taxonomy behind Foundation Center. In this case, taxonomy refers to the classification and language behind the social sector. What follows, is a case for why it needs updating, and what we can do to enhance their information and progress. — Jeannine Corey begins the article by noting that ‘language allows us to communicate complex ideas and acquire information using an agreed-on structure and process.’ The article makes this point clear, and while it is not something we would argue with, it may not be something we immediately think of when we think of data, or necessary information to help our not-for-profits make the right decisions. We operate in a dynamic and constantly evolving landscape. If we are all speaking a different language, it actually makes it very difficult for donors to differentiate, and ultimately, invest where they want to. Hence the Foundation Center have embarked on this research, ‘evaluating [their] codes, mining the text of the nearly five million grants and one million philanthropic institutions in [their] database, and cross-referencing that information against other international standards to inform the creation of a revised taxonomic system.’ So to give you a specific example, this means ‘replacing “type of support” with two new categories: support strategy, to reflect the goal or approach behind the actual support, and transaction type, to capture the various forms of philanthropy beyond the cash grant that happen around the world.’ Before we can begin the in-depth data analysis that so many of our readers are crying out for, we have to be collecting good, useful data. Otherwise we’ll be basing our findings on weak, or inaccurate data. Hence the problem of taxonomy, which is why Foundation Center have not only dedicated their time to tackling it, but are now asking for our readers’ support. Jeanine states that ‘our goal is not to create another standard but to develop a framework that meets the needs of the sector and can serve as a language that organizations use to communicate their work to each other.’ For this to be realised, it means bringing in more opinions from more organisations. Their draft is available here, and if you submit your feedback on both its overall structure as well as specific terms, then you will be a part of driving the sector forward to better data, and better decisions. Furthermore, you can read on via WINGS, who recently published a great interview with Jeff Falkenstein, the Foundation Center’s Vice President for Data Architecture. Jeff goes into detail as to why an extensive taxonomy is good for the sector, and how developing global partnerships is key.
Many thanks to Jeannine Corey from Foundation Center for the article, published at Philanthropy News Digest. Be sure to stay up to date with news Foundation Center, Philanthropy News Digest via Twitter, and of course, engage Markets For Good in the debate.