Opening Up with GrantCraft

GrantCraft just published a cogent intro to funder transparency.

Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency explores how transparency can strengthen credibility, improve grantee relationships, facilitate greater collaboration, increase public trust, reduce duplication of effort, and build communities of shared learning.

Janet Camarena’s post over at Glass Pockets sets a great context for the piece, taking on five familiar myths of transparency and providing some great talking points for starting this dialog in our own shops.

In discussions with grants managers and technologists in philanthropy, we’ve been placing Open hGrant into funder transparency work in a very tactical way. It assumes grantmakers are ready to be open and are looking for a sensible way to get started that doesn’t cost a fortune in time, money and staffing. A free, open-source plug-in on a free, open-source content management system is a great start. Connecting it to existing systems would be even better (we’re working on it). But there’s actually something else to it, and every grants manager, IT staffer, program officer and CEO we’ve talked with about Open hGrant comes around to this point sooner or later:

If we can quickly push our grantmaking data into the open, what do we have to do to commensurately increase our understanding of it? That work may have more to do with our inherent specialties: stepping back, reflecting, asking questions about what we’re seeing and what we can’t yet see, applying our learning…

To which one might add: rinse, repeat.

Way too complicated for a plug-in. Just right for humans.

Market Research (Over Lunch) (via Text) (from the Roof Top)

As with all good, open source ideas, it’s entirely possible someone is already making headway with it. Spent a couple days reaching out to colleagues working in philanthropic intermediaries finding out who’s working on open data solutions for grantmakers. Check it out:

Spent a lunch hour with Colin Lacon, CEO and President of Northern California Grantmakers telling him about Open hGrant’s goals. NCG has been shining a light on  philanthropic transparency through a couple of its grantmaker education strands, and points to signature efforts by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation and others to implement whole suites of transparency technologies. It was no surprise to see NorCal grantmakers listed in the founding group over at The Reporting Commitment, and it gave a little pause to see the initiative included 17 grantmakers in a field of more than 80,000 nationwide. What are grantmaker barriers to entry in the open data reporting field?

Not surprisingly, Colin didn’t think it was a matter of technology acumen or access, though he knew a simple tool could be vital. We discussed how transparency is first and foremost a philosophy, a way of seeing the work of philanthropy as a shared effort to transform communities. Open hGrant can be rightly seen as a tactic way down the line, a means to an end.

Connected with Val Rozansky, Director of Knowledge Services at the Forum of Regional Associations to find out if they had any open data tools irons in the fire. Val’s an architect of shared technology and taxonomy among regional associations –a beautiful combination of practical economies of scale and cooperative standards. Val’s big question was when Open hGrant would be ready for Drupal. Next on the list.

The March confab with Janet Camarena, Director of the Foundation Center‘s San Francisco office accurately pinpointed all of the issues we’re touching while developing the Open hGrant plug-in: do we need to emphasize hearts and minds or bits and bytes? How do we show the potential of big data initiatives when the data sampling is small? How do we attract philanthropic leadership, and technical expertise, into the same project?