Charities encouraged to follow the public sector in releasing data

NCVO, The National Council for Voluntary Sector Organisations, has started publishing data to its Voluntary Sector Datastore. It wants the sector to match government in opening up data. Should this blog widen its focus to include the voluntary sector?

Are the arguments for releasing data the same as for government bodies? For example, is the data held by voluntary sector organisations ‘public’ in the same way as that held by public bodies?

Should this blog seek to challenge and support the voluntary as well as the public sector? Is the work of local charities an important part of local politics and civic engagement, or should it be treated separately?

What do you think?

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

4 thoughts on “Charities encouraged to follow the public sector in releasing data

  1. Good question – I’m one of the people at NCVO that have been putting together data.ncvo.

    I’d recommend reading the Arbitrary Constant blog posts & comments on the subject ( There seems to me to be a consensus that open data in the voluntary sector is a Good Thing, but that the issues involved and the scope of data released will be different to other sectors. Particularly issues around commercial sensitivity, competition, etc. The key is making a convincing case that the work of charities (both individually and as a group) would be improved by the use and creation of open data.

    But there are many shared issues – building up skills, making the case for open data, planning for setbacks – that this blog already explores.

    Opening up some data might be unavoidable might be avoidable for some charities if it becomes a part of contracts for public services.

    An example of the voluntary & public sectors sharing data really well (although I’m not sure if it’s “open” data) – is the national biodiversity network:

    I haven’t answered whether your blog should cover the vcs – but I’ll definitely say that we’d really like to keep the conversation going.


  2. First, thanks for this excellent blog. It really is, well, excellent.

    Second, thanks to you both for the kind links to my blog. My first post on the topic (here) was inspired by some idle thoughts on Twitter. I was originally unsure that the arguments for Open Data in the public sector also held for the voluntary sector, but through the comments on the blog and giving it more thought, the benefits seem to me just as good.

    Thus, in answer to the question: I think it would be great if this blog did start to cover the VCS as well; partly, of course, because central and local government delivers so much of its work through the VCS that Open Data will inevitably flow (through contracts) to the VCS too in order for the public sector to discharge its own transparency/open data duties.

    If I may, I’ll trail here some work I’m doing at my employer, ecdp: in the next couple of weeks, we’re going to publish a whole range of data. Partly inspired by David and Karl at NCVO, we’re hoping this will be another great example of the VCS engaging with Open Data and seeing what flows from it.

    Will share this with you when it’s up.

  3. Pingback: Webmaster » With the power to supply public services comes greater public scrutiny of voluntary sector organisations

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