What Works? Developing a global evidence base for public engagement

Report by Reema Patel and Stephen Yeo: “…the Wellcome Trust commissioned OTT Consulting to recommend the best approach for enabling public engagement communities to share and gather evidence on public engagement practice globally, and in particular to assess the suitability of an approach adapted from the UK ‘What Works Centres’. This report is the output from that commission. It draws from a desk-based literature review, workshops in India, Peru and the UK, and a series of stakeholder interviews with international organisations.

The key themes that emerged from stakeholder interviews and workshops were that, in order for evidence about public engagement to help inform and shape public engagement practice, and for public engagement to be used and deployed effectively, there has to be an approach that can: understand the audiences, broaden out how ‘evidence’ is understood and generated, think strategically about how evidence affects and informs practice and understand the complexity of the system dynamics within which public engagement (and evidence about public engagement) operates….(More)”.

Data in Collective Impact: Focusing on What Matters

Article by Justin Piff: “One of the five conditions of collective impact, “shared measurement systems,” calls upon initiatives to identify and share key metrics of success that align partners toward a common vision. While the premise that data should guide shared decision-making is not unique to collective impact, its articulation 10 years ago as a necessary condition for collective impact catalyzed a focus on data use across the social sector. In the original article on collective impact in Stanford Social Innovation Review, the authors describe the benefits of using consistent metrics to identify patterns, make comparisons, promote learning, and hold actors accountable for success. While this vision for data collection remains relevant today, the field has developed a more nuanced understanding of how to make it a reality….

Here are four lessons from our work to help collective impact initiatives and their funders use data more effectively for social change.

1. Prioritize the Learning, Not the Data System

Those of us who are “data people” have espoused the benefits of shared data systems and common metrics too many times to recount. But a shared measurement system is only a means to an end, not an end in itself. Too often, new collective impact initiatives focus on creating the mythical, all-knowing data system—spending weeks, months, and even years researching or developing the perfect software that captures, aggregates, and computes data from multiple sectors. They let the perfect become the enemy of the good, as the pursuit of perfect data and technical precision inhibits meaningful action. And communities pay the price.

Using data to solve complex social problems requires more than a technical solution. Many communities in the US have more data than they know what to do with, yet they rarely spend time thinking about the data they actually need. Before building a data system, partners must focus on how they hope to use data in their work and identify the sources and types of data that can help them achieve their goals. Once those data are identified and collected, partners, residents, students, and others can work together to develop a shared understanding of what the data mean and move forward. In Connecticut, the Hartford Data Collaborative helps community agencies and leaders do just this. For example, it has matched programmatic data against Hartford Public Schools data and National Student Clearinghouse data to get a clear picture of postsecondary enrollment patterns across the community. The data also capture services provided to residents across multiple agencies and can be disaggregated by gender, race, and ethnicity to identify and address service gaps….(More)”.

Arts Data in the Public Sector: Strategies for local arts agencies

Report by Bloomberg Associates: “Cities are increasingly using data to help shape policy and identify service gaps, but data about arts and culture is often met with skepticism. Local arts agencies, the city and county entities at the forefront of understanding and serving their local creative communities, often face difficulties in identifying meaningful metrics that capture quality as well as quantity in this unique field. With the Covid-19 pandemic and intensifying demand for equity, the desire for reliable, longitudinal information will only increase in the coming years as municipalities with severely limited resources face critical decisions in their effort toward recovery.

So how can arts-minded cities leverage data to better serve grantees, promote equity in service delivery, and demonstrate the impact of arts and culture across a range of significant policy priorities, among other ambitions?

Produced by our Cultural Assets Management team, Arts Data in the Public Sector highlights the data practices of fifteen local arts agencies across the U.S. to capture a meaningful cross-section of constituencies, resources, and strategies. Through best practices and case studies, the Guide offers useful insights and practical resources that can assist and inspire local government arts funders and advocates as they work to establish more equitable and inclusive practices and to affirm the importance of arts and culture as a public service well into the future…(More)”.

Evidence-Based Policymaking: What Human Service Agencies Can Learn from Implementation Science and Integrated Data Systems

Paper by Sharon Zanti & M. Lori Thomas: “The evidence-based policymaking movement compels government leaders and agencies to rely on the best available research evidence to inform policy and program decisions, yet how to do this effectively remains a challenge. This paper demonstrates how the core concepts from two emerging fields—Implementation Science (IS) and Integrated Data Systems (IDS)—can help human service agencies and their partners realize the aims of the evidence-based policymaking movement. An IS lens can help agencies address the role of context when implementing evidence-based practices, complement other quality and process improvement efforts, simultaneously study implementation and effectiveness outcomes, and guide de-implementation of ineffective policies. The IDS approach offers governance frameworks to support ethical and legal data use, provides high-quality administrative data for in-house analyses, and allows for more time-sensitive analyses of pressing agency needs. Ultimately, IS and IDS can support human service agencies in more efficiently using government resources to deliver the best available programs and policies to the communities they serve. Although this paper focuses on examples within the United States context, key concepts and guidance are intended to be broadly applicable across geographies, given that IS, IDS, and the evidence-based policymaking movement are globally relevant….(More)”.

Roadmap to social impact: Your step-by-step guide to planning, measuring and communicating social impact

Roadmap developed by Ioana Ramia, Abigail Powell, Katrina Stratton, Claire Stokes, Ariella Meltzer, and Kristy Muir: “…is a step-by-step guide to support you and your organisation through the process of outcomes measurement and evaluation.

While it’s not the silver bullet for outcomes measurement or impact assessment, The Roadmap provides you with eight steps to understand the context in which you operate, who you engage with and the social issue you are addressing, how you address this social issue, what the intended changes are, how and when to measure those changes and how to communicate and use your findings to further improve you work and social impact.

It introduces some established techniques for data collection and analysis, but it is not a guide to research methods. A list of resources is also provided at the end of the guide, including tools for stakeholder engagement, developing a survey, interview questionnaire and data analysis.

The Roadmap is for everyone working towards the creation of positive social impact in Australia who wants to measure the change they are making for individuals, organisations and communities….(More)”.

Philanthropy Can Help Communities Weed Out Inequity in Automated Decision Making Tools

Article by Chris Kingsley and Stephen Plank: “Two very different stories illustrate the impact of sophisticated decision-making tools on individuals and communities. In one, the Los Angeles Police Department publicly abandoned a program that used data to target violent offenders after residents in some neighborhoods were stopped by police as many as 30 times per week. In the other, New York City deployed data to root out landlords who discriminated against tenants using housing vouchers.

The second story shows the potential of automated data tools to promote social good — even as the first illustrates their potential for great harm.

Tools like these — typically described broadly as artificial intelligence or somewhat more narrowly as predictive analytics, which incorporates more human decision making in the data collection process — increasingly influence and automate decisions that affect people’s lives. This includes which families are investigated by child protective services, where police deploy, whether loan officers extend credit, and which job applications a hiring manager receives.

How these tools are built, used, and governed will help shape the opportunities of everyday citizens, for good or ill.

Civil-rights advocates are right to worry about the harm such technology can do by hardpwiring bias into decision making. At the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where we fund and support data-focused efforts, we consulted with civil-rights groups, data scientists, government leaders, and family advocates to learn more about what needs to be done to weed out bias and inequities in automated decision-making tools — and recently produced a report about how to harness their potential to promote equity and social good.

Foundations and nonprofit organizations can play vital roles in ensuring equitable use of A.I. and other data technology. Here are four areas in which philanthropy can make a difference:

Support the development and use of transparent data tools. The public has a right to know how A.I. is being used to influence policy decisions, including whether those tools were independently validated and who is responsible for addressing concerns about how they work. Grant makers should avoid supporting private algorithms whose design and performance are shielded by trade-secrecy claims. Despite calls from advocates, some companies have declined to disclose details that would allow the public to assess their fairness….(More)”

Digitally Kind

Report by Anna Grant with Cliff Manning and Ben Thurman: “Over the past decade and particularly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen increasing use of digital technology in service provision by third and public sector organisations. But with this increasing use comes challenges. The development and use of these technologies often outpace the organisational structures put in place to improve delivery and protect both individuals and organisations.

Digitally Kind is devised to help bridge the gaps between digital policy, process and practice to improve outcomes, and introducing kindness as a value to underpin an organisational approach.

Based on workshops with over 40 practitioners and frontline staff, the report has been designed as a starting point to support organisations open up conversations around their use of digital in delivering services. Digitally Kind explores a range of technical, social and cultural considerations around the use of tech when working with individuals covering values and governance; access; safety and wellbeing; knowledge and skills; and participation.

While the project predominantly focused on the experiences of practitioners and organisations working with young people, many of the principles hold true for other sectors. The research also highlights a short set of considerations for funders, policymakers (including regulators) and online platforms….(More)”.

Science Philanthropy and Societal Responsibility: A Match Made for the 21st Century

Blog by Evan S. Michelson: “The overlapping crises the world has experienced in 2020 make clear that resources from multiple sectors — government, private sector, and philanthropy — need to be deployed at multiple scales to better address societal challenges. In particular, science philanthropy has stepped up, helping to advance COVID-19 vaccine developmentidentify solutions to climate change, and make the tools of scientific inquiry more widely available.

As I write in my recently published book, Philanthropy and the Future of Science and Technology (Routledge, 2020), this linkage between science philanthropy and societal responsibility is one that needs to be continually strengthened and advanced as global challenges become more intertwined and as the relationship between science and society becomes more complex. In fact, science philanthropies have an important, yet often overlooked, role in raising the profile of the societal responsibility of research. One way to better understand the role science philanthropies can and should play in society is to draw on the responsible research and innovation (RRI) framework, a concept developed by scholars from fields such as science & technology policy and science & technology studies. Depending on its configuration, the RRI framework has roughly three core dimensions: anticipatory research that is forward-looking and in search of new discoveries, deliberative and inclusive approaches that better engage and integrate members of the public with the research process, and the adoption of reflexive and responsive dispositions by funders (along with those conducting research) to ensure that societal and public values are accounted for and integrated at the outset of a research effort.

Philanthropies that fund research can more explicitly consider this perspective — even just a little bit — when making their funding decisions, thereby helping to better infuse whatever support they provide for individuals, institutions, and networks with attention to broader societal concerns. For instance, doing so not only highlights the need for science philanthropies to identify and support high-quality early career researchers who are pursuing new avenues of science and technology research, but it also raises considerations of diversity, equity, and inclusion as equally important decision-making criteria for funding. The RRI framework also suggests that foundations working in science and technology should not only help to bring together networks of individual scholars and their host institutions, but that the horizon of such collaborations should be actively extended to include practitioners, decision-makers, users, and communities affected by such investigations. Philanthropies can take a further step and reflexively apply these perspectives to how they operate, how they set their strategies and grantmaking priorities, or even in how they directly manage scientific research infrastructure, which some philanthropic institutions have even begun to do within their own institutions….(More)”.

If data is 21st century oil, could foundations be the right owners?

Felix Oldenburg at Alliance: “What are the best investments for a foundation? This important question is one many foundation professionals are revisiting in light of low interest rates, high market volatility, and fears of deep economic trouble ahead. While stories of success certainly exist and are worth learning from, even the notorious lack of data cannot obscure the inconvenient truth that the idea of traditional endowments is in trouble.

I would argue that in order to unleash the potential of foundations, we should turn the question around, perhaps back on its feet: For which assets are foundations the best owners?

In the still dawning digital age, one fascinating answer may stare you right in the face as you read this. How much is your personal data worth? Your social media information, search and purchase history, they are the source of much of the market value of the fastest growing sector of our time. A rough estimate of market valuation of the major social platforms divided by their active users arrives at more than $1,000 USD per user, not differentiating by location or other factors. This sum is more than the median per capita wealth in about half the world’s countries. And if the trend continues, this value may continue to grow – and with it the big question of how to put one of the most valuable resource of our time to use for the good of all.

Acting as guardians of digital commons, data-endowed foundations could negotiate conditions for the commercial use of its assets, and invest the income to create equal digital opportunities, power 21st century education, and fight climate change.

Foundation ownership in the data sector may sound like a wild idea at first. Yet foundations and their predecessors have played the role of purpose-driven owners of critical assets and infrastructures throughout history. Monasteries (called ‘Stifte’ in German, the root of the German word for foundations) have protected knowledge and education in libraries, and secured health care in hospitals. Trusts have created affordable much of the social housing in the exploding cities of the 19th century. The German Marshall Plan created an endowment for economic recovery that is still in existence today.

The proposition is simple: Independent ownership for the good of all, beyond the commercial or national interests of individual corporations of governments, in perpetuity. Acting as guardians of digital commons, data-endowed foundations could negotiate conditions for the commercial use of its assets, and invest the income to create equal digital opportunities, power 21st century education, and fight climate change. An ideal model of ownership would also include a form of governance exercised by the users themselves through digital participation and elections. A foundation really only relies on one thing, a stable frame of rights in its legal home country. This is far from a trivial condition, but again history shows how many foundations have survived depressions, wars, and revolutions….(More)”

Building the World We Deserve: A New Framework for Infrastructure

Introductory letter to a new whitepaper published by Siegel Family Endowment that outlines a new framework for understanding and funding infrastructure: “This story begins, as many set in New York City do, with the subway. As transportation enthusiasts, we’re fascinated by trains, especially the remarkable system that runs above and below the city’s streets. It was the discovery of this shared passion for understanding how our subway system works that got us talking about infrastructure a few years ago.

Infrastructure, in the most traditional sense, brings to mind physical constructions: city streets, power lines, the pipes that carry water into your home. But what about all the other things that make society function? Having seen the decline in investment in the country’s physical infrastructure, and aware of the many ways the digital world is upending our definition of the term, we began exploring how Siegel Family Endowment could play a role in the future of infrastructure.

Over the past two years of research and conversations with partners across the field, we’ve realized that our nation’s infrastructure is due for a reset. Hearing the term should evoke a different image: an interconnected web of assets, seen and unseen, that make up the foundation upon which the complicated machinery of modern society operates. It’s inherently multidimensional.

In 2020, the United States has reckoned with a health pandemic and a watershed moment in the fight for racial equity. These challenges highlight how relevant it is to reconsider what society deems the most critical, foundational assets for its citizens—and to ensure they have access to those assets.

Funding infrastructure is often considered the responsibility of government agencies. Yet many of our peers in philanthropy have made important investments in the field. These include working with local governments to fund research, promote novel forms of public-private partnership, and, ultimately, better serve citizens. And if infrastructure is viewed through the broader lens we argue for in this paper, it becomes clear just how much philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and private entities are investing in our digital and social ecosystems.

We believe that we can do more—and better—if we commit as a country to adopting some of the principles outlined in this paper. However, we also consider this the beginning of a conversation. The time for us to think bigger and bolder about infrastructure is here. Our challenge now is to design it so that more people may thrive….(More)”.