The Transform the Sector conference held last Thursday February 23rd in Toronto offered great exchanges on how to advance the social sector's impact through use of data. CCSD's Katherine Scott and Michael Ditor attended the conference, running into CDP representatives from Halton, Red Deer, Simcoe, Sudbury and York (the group selfie isn't worth posting).
Michael took part in a panel discussion on Collecting Data for Collective Impact with the Tamarck Institute's Liz Weaver and the Calgary Homeless Foundation's Nick Falvo, which delved into the nuts and bolts of establishing data systems for networks of organizations.
Progress on the use of administrative data in program evaluation and planning was presented and is an area that the CDP plans to keep an eye on. Canada Helps and the Ontario Trillium Foundation are attempting to gather and analyse their administrative data to better understand program and organizational outcomes. The Data Lab at PolicyWise in Alberta works with different government departments to collect and link administrative information on those served. Their new data visualization tools and service profiles were really interesting and provide an exemplary model for how governments and the social service sector might work together to improve services and outcomes.
The presentations on Open Data were also interesting. The Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford University is shining a light on the importance of our digital infrastructure and the role of civil society organizations in developing and sharing ethical and effective data practices and not simply leaving this work to private companies. The OCAP standards developed by First Nations Information Governance Centre, associated with the AFN, were held up as groundbreaking.
The Doing Data Ethically session raised the important point that data are constructed, not handed down from a value-free environment. This leads to questions such as what is it we collect or do not collect? What do we do with the data we collect? Who sets the agenda for data that is collected? Who else needs to be part of the data collection conversation?
The conference certainly had two big take-aways. First, was the importance of networking and making connections both within and across sectors. Second, was the need for capacity-building and that as a sector, and as data practitioners, we still have a lot of work to do regarding the value and opportunity of using data, and building a case to do so, whether it's within our organizations, or more broadly within civil society. The discussions we had over the course of the day validated networking and capacity-building as strategic priorities for the Community Data Program.
It was an exciting one-day conference but we look forward to continuing the conversation on best practices for data in the social sector with our members!
How to make the most of Transform the Sector from Powered by Data on Vimeo.