Why aren't there more third sector organisations using open government data? That is a question we have asked ourselves a lot over the last few years and we have done a lot of research on the subject of open data uptake from the charity and voluntary sector, and trying to identify what those barriers are.
From the foundations we have built over the last 5 years working with a range of partners, we started to think about what's next, and we help government digitalisation staff to try to think about how they can create better outreach policy in regards to the third sector.
When digital policy is enacted it is usually the case that other departments are implementing outreach procedures, with this subject matter, digital or ICT departments will be creating strategy and most likely community development officers will be enacting related activities, meaning none digital savvy officers are charged with its facilitation. When this has not been considered in the past, this has caused issues in regards to ensuring correct information is being relayed and apprehension when being challenged with questions.
This has had an effect on staff confidence explaining digital related issues and third sector organisations disengaging or sometimes dimensioning trust due to community members not understanding the language. Put simply, more work needed to be done to ensure front line staff have all the tools they need to ensure policy outcomes get met.
So, building on this, we ran a series of virtual hackathons with central and local governments policy makers from all around the globe, here government officers took part in training that looked at open data outreach mechanisms, how to tailor community engagement without compromising existing portals and the landrage around it.
There were 3 activities that asked what officers would like to see in regards to third sector usership on health, environmental, jobs and communities, what data could we encourage our third sector to collect on our behalf and finally, what language can we use that will resonate with local NGOs.
These workshops took place with The Government of Colombia, The Government of Romania, The Scottish Government, The Government of Kenya, The Government Office of the Slovak Republic, The Palestinian Authority Government along with local government partners such as The Government of Ontario in Canada and The Government of The City of Sao Paulo in Brazil.
You can read all about that work in the report below or download it here. You will find it is full of narrative on the issues of gov data outreach and communities, along with feedback from government staff from all over the world, there is also a bonus section on a series of workshop feedback on Covid-19 and open data outreach with partners in Kosovo and North Macedonia.
That brings us to how we are going to build on this work, our next steps are to launch a research platform called Gov Data Labs, this is a space for volunteers using data journalism to add to the debate with blogs, vlogs, mini projects and workshops.
We are currently in the process of recruiting volunteers and we will be looking to launch the platform at the end of March with the first cohort of content coming with the launch. If you are interested in applying for the program, you can do that here.