Ariadne – European Funders for Social Change and Human Rights

Project

Research and Decision-Making Framework for Philanthropic Organizations Sharing Grants Data for Human Rights and Social Change Projects

Team

Project Overview

The project explores the decision-making process for philanthropic institutions as they collect and share open, comparable grants data, including current approaches, risks and emerging best practice. An effective social sector relies on funder transparency about what is supported, but there are sensitivities in funding information, and sharing data in irresponsible ways causes harm. This project will examine the data shared by Ariadne members, and create actionable learning on members’ data maturity, perceived impact of opening data, and the decision-making process for opening it. It will create a responsible data decision-making process and insights into the challenges of publishing data.

Ariadne is a network for funders set up and run by funders. It is a private community that connects European donors and foundation staff working to support social change, human dignity, human rights and justice. Ariadne received a 2017 Digital Impact Grant for the project “Research and decision-making framework for philanthropic organizations sharing grants data for human rights and social change projects.”

Challenge

Human rights and social change funders want to share their grants data regularly and in a way that supports analysis of the sector; but they have concerns about the best way to do this. The Ariadne Network collates grants data from its members on an annual basis, but this takes time and the information provided is of mixed quality. Some members have started publishing their grants using the 360Giving standard, but others are concerned about sharing this information openly and the risks involved. This project will assess current data sharing practices; review the risks and opportunities posed; and consider emerging best practice covering issues such as data redaction, licensing, informed consent and ownership.

Conversations

Julie Broome presented the work of Ariadne and partners at the Data on Purpose conference at Stanford University in February 2019.

2017 Digital Impact Grantees from Stanford PACS on Vimeo.

Outputs and Progress

  • Joint webinar with the Engine Room and 360 Giving in October 2018 to introduce the guide and open a discussion with donors.
  • Presentation at the Human Rights Funders Network conference in October 2018 to a wider range of human rights donors from around the world.
  • The Engine Room produced a series of blogs throughout the research and we jointly produced one that will be featured by the Foundation Center in its Transparency Talk blog.

Insights

  • It was evident through the research that there were many issues around storage and collection of data that donors had not sufficiently considered. Many donors aim to collect as much information as possible about their grantees and the projects the are working on but do not give significant considerations to questions around who has access to that data and how it is being protected internally. We hope that the conversation guide will help donors think through the implications of collecting such data and consider both whether it is necessary and how the data can be better protected.
  • As we have been discussing the research and the guide with funders, it has been useful to distinguish between voluntary data-sharing and involuntary data-breaches. Donors were very concerned about the former but sometimes had not given ample consideration to the latter. While donors may be controlling the amount of data that is shared voluntarily, through anonymization of grants, for example, they had not all considered the vast amounts of data they were sitting on but not necessarily making an adequate effort to protect, even if that information was not being voluntarily shared.
  • It was notable how many foundations felt ill-equipped to make decisions about sharing data, which left them in a bit of paralysis as they were afraid of making the wrong decision. We hope that the guide will help donors feel confident about sharing data in the context of grant-making analyses or mapping projects but to do so responsibly.
  • These tensions between security and transparency were evident and felt throughout the project. On the one hand, funders and NGOs working with human rights defenders were extremely concerned that donors are inadvertently putting organizations at risk through their use of grantee data, and some felt that all forms of sharing should be avoided. On the other hand, those that work on transparency issues or that are very committed to data-sharing projects worried that putting too much emphasis on security would discourage sharing. We have had to strike a delicate balance both in presenting recommendations in the guide and in how we talk about the guide. We do believe that security concerns can be addressed while still encouraging more sharing of data for constructive and analytical purposes, and indeed it is in no one’s interest for no data to be shared nor for data to be shared irresponsibly.

Next Steps

  • The primary focus of the project at this point is to disseminate the conversation guide as widely as possible and encourage donors to use it. All of the partners in the project will continue to highlight the guide through their own events and when attending external conferences, and we hope this will help the guide reach a wider audience than the Ariadne members who were the focus of the research.

Learn More

Visit Ariadne online at ariadne-network.eu.