Is The Social Sector Data Driven? Or Data Driven Mad?

Those of us who run social enterprises and charities collect and use lots of data for all kinds of purposes. Many would argue there’s too much. Business experts tell us we could be sitting on a goldmine if only we could harness this amazing resource.  Yet the reality is that many are stumbling around in blizzards of data which is onerous and frustrating to collect and analyse, and often delivers information which isn’t meaningful, useful, or reliable for decision makers.

Excitingly we’ve found there are social sector organisations, big and small, using data to do powerful and transformational things. They say it’s helping them be smarter, more effective, and more influential. More often, social entrepreneurs and charity leaders tell us they know data is important and valuable, they just don’t know how to make it work for their cause and their business. They tell us they are grappling with all kinds of data (e.g. from spreadsheets, databases, CRM systems, survey tools, web and social media analytics…plus other research and information sources.). Indeed some still collect data on paper forms and keep them in filing cabinets.

“It’s difficult to make sense of the data. When we pull it all together it’s like comparing apples, oranges, and bananas”

“We spend so much time and energy collecting data to report to commissioners and funders we don’t have any capacity left to think about how data can shape our own future.”

“We collect lots of data but just haven’t got the skills or tools to analyse it. We’re data rich but information poor.”

We in the Data Evolution project are trying to find out where social enterprises are at on the data journey, what challenges you face and what help you need?

We’re asking as many social entrepreneurs and charity people as possible to complete a very short (5 minutes) online survey http://bit.ly/dataevolution. There is the chance to win £100 for your cause and the opportunity to access a more detailed analysis of where your organisation stands with data.

This post by Sian Basker from Data Orchard first appeared on LinkedIn.