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Upgrading the Infrastructure for Social Change

As readers of this site are aware, Markets for Good is an effort to improve the system for generating, sharing, and acting upon data and information in the social sector. Our vision is of a social sector powered by information.

We recognize that this vision is ambitious and realize it will require many technical, behavioral, and cultural changes. It will necessitate incentives and support so that organizations are better able to supply information, and efforts to enable and encourage people to make productive use of information.

We hope that through the Markets for Good website that we can engage in productive discussions about how we can address all of this.

Today we are happy to share with you a first draft of a “vision paper” that signals how and why we think that the sector needs to upgrade its information infrastructure. By that, we mean the architecture that helps to connect, organize and structure information so that it can be supplied and used more easily. We acknowledge that upgrading the information infrastructure will not change the sector’s use of information overnight, and that other elements are needed to support the free flow of quality data in the social sector. But we believe that in order to move towards a more effective sector, powered by information, we need to begin by strengthening the core building blocks of data exchange.

While this paper is an outgrowth of numerous discussions among more than 20 social sector intermediaries that have been part of the Markets for Good collaboration, we realize that we are still very much at the beginning of this journey. As such, we intend this paper to be a living document that will evolve over time. We want your input, and we want to incorporate it into successive versions of this vision and into the initiative more broadly.

Over the coming weeks, we plan to engage you all on a series of topics related to this document, in an attempt to break down the conversation into its core pieces and generate real dialogue around key topics. Specifically, we are planning to discuss:

  • how the social sector operates today, and what a sector powered by information could look like;
  • why we need to upgrade the sector’s information infrastructure, and what this could entail;
  • the benefits we see from increasing the free flow of quality information in the sector; and
  • how this is happening today, as well as how we can connect, accelerate, and expand these efforts.

For now, we invite you to download the paper and let us know what you think.

Authors: Darin McKeever, Deputy Director, Charitable Sector Support, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Victoria Vrana, Senior Program Officer, Charitable Sector Support, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Brian Walsh, Executive Director, Liquidnet For Good Kelly Born, Fellow, Philanthropy and Special Projects, The Hewlett Foundation