Help us improve how charities use data – tell us what your organisation does now

Joe Heywood joined NCVO as a research assistant in 2013. He analysed NCVO’s data on the size and scope of the voluntary sector in the UK. Joe has now left NCVO. These blog posts have been retained for reference.

We are currently asking Voluntary Sector organisations to share with us their views and experiences of working with data. By letting us know what kind of data voluntary organisations use, what barriers they face, and what they think about some potential solutions, participating organisations can give us a much better idea of what the major challenges are, how widespread they are and what might be done to improve the situation.

The importance of voluntary organisations being able to obtain, analyse and learn from data has recently been the subject of much debate. While some commentators think there is too much emphasis on data – and that organisations are better off concentrating on their main priorities – others go as far as saying that the increased use and greater availability of data is changing the way we live. As more and more potentially useful data becomes widely available, the pressure increases for organisations in the sector to be able to work with it. But for many of us, some data sets that we would like to use remain undiscoverable, inaccessible or opaque.

The Third Sector Research Centre, NCVO and the Royal Statistical Society have begun carrying out research into how data can help the sector. The scoping project, commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, aims to look at the how available data are, what data are most commonly used, the possibilities for helping organisations the way they use data. The next stage of this project includes a survey of voluntary sector organisations on their use of data.

Previous meetings and discussions have given us the impression that knowing what data is out there, being able to access the data needed and having the capacity/time/resources to work with data are all potential problems for the sector. There are also sometimes problems with the data sets themselves: they may be badly explained, inconsistent and difficult to interpret. But the voluntary sector is by no means a homogeneous mass of similar organisations facing the same challenges, which is why a larger survey is required. The number of organisations with whom we have been able to have face-to-face discussions is in the dozens, which gives us an idea, but not the full picture.

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One Response to Help us improve how charities use data – tell us what your organisation does now

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