Data is the new oil, and we all need to start drilling

By Denis Moriarty, Our Community Group Managing Director

Posted: August 3, 2017

Our Community was founded on the principle that small community groups should have access, wherever possible, to the same resources as bigger, better connected groups.

Our first two services, a commission-free online donations service (GiveNow) and a database of grants (EasyGrants), were designed to give groups better and more affordable access to the money they need to do their work, while our websites and books provided information in a form not previously available to Australian groups.

Now there's a new currency powering social reform. We still need money and we still need information, but more and more it's data that's reshaping our world.

Denis Moriarty

Newton changed the world because he showed that if you had a stack of data on the past movements of the planets, you could predict what they were going to do in the future. People are more complicated than planets, and making predictions about what they're going to do next is much more difficult, but Google and Facebook and Apple - in fact, pretty much all the world's largest companies - are now on the cusp of being able to do just that.

New tools allow us to collect, distil, understand and act on data like never before; to understand more about what drives us, hastening the pace of change.

Our Community wants to make sure the social sector doesn't miss out on grasping the possibilities presented by these new tools. We see big opportunities to use evidence to inform smarter and more effective organisations and programs, and to remove systemic barriers that prevent progress.

American data scientist Andrew Means told our Board Builder conference earlier this year that increasing data literacy and investing in shared technology were two of the keys that would unlock the new world for social sector organisations.

So here's what we're doing. We're taking a second look at the technology we oversee - GiveNow, the Funding Centre, SmartyGrants, Good Jobs, and the Institute of Community Directors Australia.

We want to understand more about the data flowing through those systems so we can use it to help you to accelerate change.

We're crunching through the data we've got to create new insights - but more than that, we're working to turn insights into action (see our Grants in Australia and Who Gives reports, for example).


We've developed a shared taxonomy that we're attaching to all of these systems so they (and you) don't have to work in isolation any longer, not if you don't want to.

We're developing new help sheets - our evaluation materials, for example, are designed to help not-for-profits cut through the noise about data-driven outcomes assessment and focus on what matters.

And we're investing. We've appointed a data science team to speed up and improve our own understanding and practices, our web development team is growing by the month, and we've convened a data reference group to help re-orient our policies (nothing about you without you).

The purpose of all this, of course, is to play our part in creating and inspiring positive social change. Just as we did when we set up GiveNow and the Funding Centre, we're looking to provide a backstop and a few shortcuts. We've started on an exciting journey into unmapped territory, and we hope you'll come along.