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Believe The Hype

MFG Archive

Big Data Can Have A Big Social Impact

Annika Small, CEO of Nominet Trust, in a piece from the Guardian examines all the hype that surrounds big data. Could it be another false hype, or a real value add to the social sector? And if so, how? Annika looks at the issue from a very practical point of view, sourcing interesting work being done by a range of organisations to best utilise the power of big data.

Given our readership, I’m confident you don’t think the role big data has to play is just hype. Whether you’re entirely bought into it is a different matter, and Annika puts a lot of that down to simply not knowing quite what big data means for your charitable organisation.

While we regularly hear of the work in government or private sector, social sector inside information can be much harder to hear. But rest assured, for Annika declares that “social organisations are using existing open government data to better target their services, to improve advocacy and fundraising, and to support knowledge sharing and collaboration between different charities and agencies.” Indeed, Annika continues to state the “most value – certainly most social value – is likely to be created at the intersection of government, private and social sector data.”

Moving to some examples of this intersection, Annika highlights The Housing Association Charitable Trust (HACT), who have two exciting data projects at this very intersection. One is ‘Community Insight’, allowing for tracking changes to well being or deprivation. The second programme, ‘Housing Big Data’ is “building a huge dataset by combining stats from 16 different housing providers across the UK” with the aim of addressing community challenges and then measuring their impact.

Further to this, 360giving, “which forge[s] connections between a range of private and social enterprises, lays [the] foundations for UK social investors to be a significant source of information.” While The UN’s Global Pulse programme is another great example, “with its focus on how we can combine private and public sources to pin down the size and shape of a social challenge, and calibrate our collective response.”

Her examples make a compelling case for progress, and the value big data brings to the social sector. Perhaps most striking is how much is already happening, and that great “innovation often happens when different disciplines collide” and add real value to each other.


Many thanks to the Guardian Social Enterprise Network for sharing the article. Be sure to follow them,  Annika and the Nominet Trust on Twitter for updates. For further insight from Nominet, her colleague Ed Anderton wrote for Markets For Good on ‘Our Shared Future’ just last month.