Knowledge and Data Sharing

Split off from original Information management page, which covers data protection, staff handbooks etc.

Information Resources

Note: Freedom of Information (England and Wales, also in Scotland with some differences) is a legal right to request access to all types of “recorded” information held by public bodies. Organisations providing public services might be caught in that the contracting body could make additional requirements to allow them to meet FoI requests, but otherwise unlikely. See Lobbying pages for FoI links.

Education and Training for Information Work in the Voluntary Sector is a research report produced by Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett) early 1999. An executive summary may still be somewhere on their website.

Aslib Journal of Information Management.

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. 7 Ridgmount St, London, WC1E 7AE, phone 020 7255 0500, email: info@cilip.org.uk Also see their Information Literacy group?

Knowledge Management

Not to be confused with information management, but can be closely connected. Some see it as part of de-skilling and job reductions: extracting and exploiting the knowledge held by individuals about work in the round. But, to quote from elsewhere on VR: “How good is an office manual if it doesnt include some element of extracting and collating knowledge otherwise locked up in an individual?”

So what is it? There are varying views about what KM involves – see quotes below. Distinctions are made between Explicit knowledge (recorded) and Tacit knowledge (personal know-how); a defined body of information as distinct from a person’s state of being in respect to that body. Data, information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom are all separate terms with different meanings, although writers (and organisations) often muddy these.

There is very little material on the web explicitly aimed at the voluntary sector. We would be delighted to hear of any.

  • Knowledge management in development matters site is connected with – a “community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches”. Knowledge Management for Development Journal.
  • Oxfam Canada’s Sharing Knowledge Handbook. This is written for those “working in villages, towns and rural areas who wish to transform their communities through information sharing”. Presumably from a third world perspective.
  • More IM than KM: Development Informatics working papers from Institute for Development Policy and Management.

It is probably more in what KM is applied to, rather than how, that the voluntary sector differs. So the following links (many quite old but should still work), could be useful.

  • A Delightful Dozen Principles of Knowledge Management (pdf) excerpt from Verna Allee is a good discussion tool.
  • Inside Knowledge magazine.

FreePint, the newsletter for information professionals, had an article on Knowledge management for development: an international organisation’s perspective, November 2005.

Fostering the Collaborative Creation of Knowledge: A White Paper from IBM Research gives some background on managing information in a holistic way (or as they say, an ecological view). We can’t find the paper on the site any longer!

But can knowledge be managed, as individuals have different ‘knowledge bases’? See The Nonsense of ‘Knowledge Management’.



Some quotes

Peter Honey quoting Prof Susan Greenfield (name dropper!)

‘information is just facts which on their own are not at all interesting. Knowledge occurs when disparate facts are linked and turned into ideas.’ (Training Journal, June 2000)

From VNU’s Knowledge Management White Paper:

“What managing knowledge as a resource means in practice actually spans a continuum from generating efficiency to fostering innovation.”

Simon Kent, of Knowledge Management Software in Computer Weekly (June 01):

“Knowledge …. is information’s evolutionary descendant, transcending primitive emphases on hardware, bandwidth and Java compatability with something much more powerful and sophisticated: individual and collective experience that can be leveraged to benefit virtually any activity.”

From US government’s KM web site:

“Essentially, knowledge management is at the intersection of culture, philosophy, and technology connecting people, communities and ideas for action.”

Knowledge Praxis quotes from Karl-Erik Sveiby’s posting to the Knowledge Management Forum, identifying two “tracks” of knowledge management:

  • Management of Information. To researchers in this track, according to Sveiby, “. knowledge = Objects that can be identified and handled in information systems.” [A mechanistic or object approach]
  • Management of People. For researchers and practitioners in this field, knowledge consists of “. processes, a complex set of dynamic skills, know-how, etc., that is constantly changing.” [A cultural or process approach]
  • [to which they add a Systematic approach, which combines and adds to the other two]

from Larry Prusak, director of IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, as interviewed for ebusinessforum, Oct 00:

Key steps in instituting a knowledge-management programme: “A little strategy goes a long way. There are 4 simple steps: What knowledge do you want to work with? Where is it? What do you want to do to it? and to what end: what would you gain if you did this?” …. “You could do it in a day or two.”

“Heirarchy is a distortion of knowledge …(it) is a 19th century concept.”

Designing a knowledge-management system: “You’re better off enacting one than designing one. Letting the people who work in these organisations enact it, and give them loose advice.”

from Michael Schrage, writing in Fortune magazine:

“an objective review would confirm that most firms grossly overinvest in technologies that let people see what’s going on and dramatically underinvest in delegation and true empowerment…….knowledge confirms the absence of meaningful power.”

In conclusion after discussing how efficient technology networks can lead to poor data due to ‘selfish’ practice by staff, managers or customers: “business reality dictates that organizations that commit to strategic networking must invest as much effort in designing the incentives for honest disclosure as they do in designing the technical infrastructure itself.”

Open data and data sharing

See Sector Development, Statistics

  • New Philanthropy Capital has been working on data sharing across sub-sectors (not just about funding).
  • The Global Value Exchange, previously WikiVOIS, is an open source database for individuals and organisations who are trying to account for and measure the social or environmental value that their activities create, http://www.globalvalueexchange.org.
  •  Data Unity is an open source web tool which lets you explore and visualise data, and then share discoveries with others. http://www.dataunity.org/.
  • Markets for Good “is an effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the progressive financial firm Liquidnet to improve the system for generating, sharing, and acting upon data and information in the social sector”.

Taxonomy

Introduction

Metadata, categorisation, taxonomy, ontology, classification, filing labels…. A boring but necessary basis to being able to manage data and bring it together to create meaningful information. There appears to be a lack of any sector-wide effort to agree (electronic) standards. VolResource is concerned that this could put voluntary groups at a disadvantage in the future when coming up against public sector data standards which are getting increasingly sophisticated, or other funder monitoring requirements.

See Wikipedia for a definition and discussion of Taxonomy.

The data we have in mind is anything to do with keeping tabs on sector activity, whether that is case work, service delivery or member processes. Its use will go well beyond IT, so this subject should not be seen as just a technical issue.

Viewing the Sector

The most obvious need for some degree of standardisation is in voluntary sector research.

  • Johns Hopkins University Centre for Civil Society Studies Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project has developed, starting out from the existing International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC), an International Classification of Nonprofit Organizations (ICNPO) – check the Publications page. Evolved into the Global Civil Society Index. It has been pointed out that “for all its faults, this system does have the virtue of simplicity. Other more complex (including multi dimensional) systems, [include] those developed and used in the UK have other advantages of course”.
  • The Canadian sector study, Canadian Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector in Comparative Perspective (pdf format 348kb published March 2005, may still be available via Sector Source), has a modified version of ICNPO at pages 38 to 43.

Online directories and electronic databases of voluntary organisations is perhaps the usage that comes to mind from the term ‘metadata’.

Various local, regional and national sector umbrella bodies have of necessity worked on classification for their web based directories. Here’s some efforts we know about:

  • Northern Ireland’s Community NI site has asked the sector to feed into the development of the themes (activity/topics) navigation facility (there is also a geographical one). See bottom section of the left hand navigation area.

Scotland’s CVS network established a Data Management Consortium – but only known web link has gone. There was also a ShareIT Community Metadata Schema, in Manchester, but we believe funding cuts have hit what little activity there was.

Wales Council for Voluntary Action has/had a classification system with “46 categories which are a mixture of beneficiary types, activities and functions, and any one organisation can be coded in as many categories as seems appropriate”. (Unlike ICNPO which insists on just one box being ticked). The categories are grouped into 23 forums, the basis of the representative seats at the Voluntary Sector Partnership Council with the Welsh Assembly.

Frontline operations also have a need for relevant classification systems, for monitoring activity (reporting to funders, benchmarking against others), making information available online categorised for different service user needs etc.

  • 211 Taxonomy focuses on the telephone information line for human services operating in 31 states in the US, Puerto Rico and Canada. This includes nonprofit and capacity-building categories. Subscription to gain full access to the site appears to cost but there is a Volunteer Opportunities example, in pdf format, 217kb.

Questions

The following have been raised in various discussions on taxonomy issues.

  • Can, or should, library resources be classified in the same way as a web site?
  • Is it possible to create compatibility across local, regional or national approaches? And also work with public sector classifications?

Public sector

The public sector has been working on its electronic classification standards for some time. The Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary brings together three existing labelling mechanisms for electronic information: the Government Category List (GCL), Local Government Category List (LGCL) and the seamlessUK taxonomy. At 2013, see ESD Standards section. Also see other taxonomies (controlled lists or standards) maintained by ESD.

Sector Development, Research, Statistics

The collecting, sharing and use of data to improve performance across voluntary organisations is on Knowledge and data sharing page.

See Research Resources for help with doing your own research.

Statistics

NB. This section was previously a separate page, with data put together when sector stats were hard to find on the web.

Scoping the sector is a developing field. There is no single definitive source, or a definitive definition of what the voluntary sector covers (see Glossary for some suggestions).

For instance, ‘registered charities’ will not cover all the small community organisations which aren’t registered in any way, or not-for-profits which don’t fall within the charitable definition (e.g. because their primary aim includes campaigning).

Key sources of charity statistics

General

Specific topics, regions

  • Sector bodies in English regions, and counties, have undertaken a variety of studies. See Local contacts for where to go to find out latest position.

Sector Development

RSA Project 2001 This ran pilot projects in Yorkshire and London, supporting voluntary organisations “in providing a quality learning experience for volunteers, committee members and staff”. The resulting report Making it Work – Learning and Accreditation in the Voluntary Sector, (Mar 01) costs £5 including p&p from 020 7451 6833.

Research Bodies, Think Tanks

  • ARVAC (Association for Research in the Voluntary and Community Sector) aims to increase effectiveness through research, and provide researchers with a supportive network. Acts as a resource for people interested in research in or on community organisations.
  • CAF Research Programme Has Charity Trends website, with research and analysis of data on the sector. This includes: payroll giving, gift aid, income from central government and health authorities, trends in individual giving, local/community income. Free printed copies from CAF Research, phone 01732 520125, email: research@caf.charitynet.orgCAF does/supports various other research. Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent, ME19 4TA, phone 01732 520000.
  • Centre for Civil Society at LSE closed September 2010, but some of its extensive list of publications is still available. The connected Centre for the study of Global Governance, which produced a Global Civil Society Yearbook, also closed July 2011.
  • Centre for Government and Charity Management, London South Bank University. Extends to social enterprise; current and recent masters dissertations on various charity topics available.
  • Centre for Voluntary Sector Research at Sheffield Hallam University. Undertakes contract research for organisations.
  • Civil Exchange “is a think tank that exists to help government and the voluntary sector work better together”.
  • DANGO (Database of Archives of Non-Governmental Organisations) was tackling the availability of records relating to non-governmental organisations and pressure groups active in the UK since 1945, to help assess the impact of such bodies on society. Ended 2007 – see NGOs in Britain below.
  • EMES European Network studies third sector, social enterprises etc.
  • European Research Network on Philanthropy Also see their LinkedIn page.
  • The Evidence Library has been set up by Scottish umbrella body SCVO to “provide a resource for discovering new research, finding out the latest facts and figures and stimulating ideas”.
  • The Galileo Group (not the international investment company) is an independent scholarly community of academics and practitioners whose main interest is to explore the way in which theories can be developed and applied to problems of organisation and management in the voluntary sector.
  • HistPhil is a web publication on the history of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, with a particular emphasis on how history can shed light on contemporary philanthropic issues and practice.
  • Institute for Jewish Policy Research has undertaken studies on governance, resources etc. within the jewish voluntary sector.
  • Institute for Voluntary Action Research, developed out of Aston Centre for Voluntary Action Research, Aston Business School.
  • Institute for Volunteering Research.
  • nfpSynergy, a commercial business, aims to “provide ideas, insights and information to help not for profit organisations thrive in a changing world.”
  • NGOS in Britain (Non-Governmental Organisations UK 1945-1997 – also this link) at Birmingham Centre for Contemporary History. Project was due to run to 2011.
  • OPM (was Office for Public Management) has Voluntary and Community Sector as one its area of work – evaluations and more.
  • Third Sector Development Unit, University of Teesside – possibly now part of Social Futures Institute.
  • Third Sector Research Centre (government/ESRC funded 2008-14).
  • The Royal Irish Academy did have a Third Sector Research Programme but no sign on the website from spring 2013.
  • UK Voluntary Sector Research Group (UKVSRG) brings together the researchers of the four national sector bodies (see Support Bodies page). Wales – WCVA supports sector research and networking. Scotland – try SCVO’s Evidence Library.
  • Voluntary Action History Society aims to advance the historical understanding and analysis of voluntary action, charitable and voluntary organisations and to build a network of academics, students and practitioners working in this field.
  • Voluntary Sector Studies Network “provides a virtual and actual meeting point for scholars and researchers both outside and within the voluntary (third or non-profit) sector(s), with a shared analytic interest in this set of institutions.” Publishes Voluntary Sector Review journal – see Magazines.
  • Various regional statistics have been produced for the sector. See our Local/Regional contacts page.


International (mainly American)

Research Projects and Reports

Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives – website run by run by the British Academy Research Project ‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’ . A five year project (2014-19) which aims to support voluntary sector archives in the preservation and digitisation of their archives and to promote archives as part of the voluntary sector’s wider public benefit responsibility.

Third Sector Impact, a research project bringing together over thirty researchers from 10 European universities and more than 100 stakeholders, was launched January 2014. It aims to understand the scope and scale of the third sector in Europe, its current and potential impact, and the barriers hindering the third sector to fully contribute to the continent’s welfare.

Charity Law and Policy Unit, University of Liverpool. Some publications:

    • Charities and the Contract Culture. Report, July 99, on a year-long research project to identify problems of a legal nature which have arisen for charities as a result of the ‘contract culture’.
    • Legal Issues in Charity Mergers Report, Jan 01, on a year-long research project to identify the legal issues arising in charity mergers and the different responses to them, and to consider the most appropriate solutions to commonly experienced problems.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation carries out some research of relevance. Published 12/3/01: ‘The role and future development of black and minority ethnic organisations‘. This mapping exercise looks at the role of black and minority ethnic-led voluntary and community organisations in England and Wales.

Public Management Foundation Wasted Values: harnessing the commitment of public managers (Nov 99), available from their online book store. A report on research into the goals and motivations of senior public managers. It concludes that public sector managers and their private sector counterparts are motivated by very different things. In June 99, the Foundation undertook a nationwide survey of 400 of the UK’s top public, private and voluntary sector managers. Asked about their goals and about what motivates them to do their job well, managers in the three different sectors gave some revealingly different replies. Voluntary sector managers show a mixture of public and private sector views.

Also see Training – professional development as most of the higher education establishments listed run research programmes to some extent.