On March 20 a group of researchers, policy makers, data experts, and nonprofit policy experts met to talk about Citizens United and the Future of the Social Sector. This was one of the #ReCoding Good charrettes I'm organizing as part of the Stanford Philanthropy, Policy and Technology Project - and a full synthesis of the meeting will soon be available on SSIR.
In the meantime, I wanted to highlight a few themes from that meeting that are very much on my mind.
1) Data and stories
We were honored to be joined by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker at the March 20 event, along with Dan Newman of Maplightand Lee Drutman of The Sunlight Foundation. Mayer is an investigative reporter, whose stories on the Koch brothers andArt Pope have been critical in helping Americans see the emerging intersections between politics and nonprofit organizations. Maplight is a data nonprofit - it collects, curates and shares data on money and politics. The Sunlight Foundation focuses on government transparency and uses a lot of data and data visualization to show patterns and connections.
The journalist and the data wonks agree - they need each other. Stories need data, data need stories. For example, check out the story on money and politics that ran on This American Life, informed by data from Sunlight Foundation. There was further reporting on the story, "Take the Money and Run for Congress" on NPR's Planet Money podcast.
You can listen to the episode here, see the charts and read Planet Money's report here, and check out the analysis Sunlight's Lee Drutman conducted for these stories here.
Let's get past the false dichotomy between data and stories and get on with making change happen. Some new finds that I'm playing with and learning about that fit into this intersection:
(Photo from UN Global Pulse)
And if nonprofits and foundations aren't part of new solutions? Well...I'll leave that to you. Here's what I had to say about this last year at Personal Democracy Forum. Here's what Fast Company said about the UN Global Pulse initiative and "data philanthropy."
I'll be talking more about this (5 whole minutes more, that is) at an Ignite Session at the Council on Foundations conference on May 1st. Hopefully, they'll share it.
3) Data and change
Digital public goods is the next topic for our #ReCoding Good charrettes. Is there such a thing? Is the digital economy - and the changes it makes to funding, creation and distribution - fundamentally shifting the dynamics of using private resources for public good? I think this is true though I don't yet know the full scope or scale of it. Efforts at data philanthropy and data commons, the digital rights work of organizations such as Creative Commons, Media Democracy Fund and Electronic Frontiers Foundation are pointing toward a new set of digital goods, digital associational relationships, and digital assets. We'll be talking about this on April 19 - with SSIR blog posts before and after as always. Please join us.
Thanks to Lucy Bernholz for allowing us to re-publish this piece. YOu can find her blog at http://www.philanthropy.blogspot.com/