Having reliable data and sources of data is crucial to developing and delivering robust and successful projects. So I’m always looking for new sources of up to date information and data sets to help with designing monitoring plans and programme evaluations.

On Monday 9 December 2013, two new resources were launched that will go a long way to standardising data sets and providing robust and accurate data with which to measure interventions: The Global Value Exchange and Data Unity

Global Value Exchange is essentially a depository of outcome and impact data, indicators, source material, etc that can be used by NGOs, consultants and data analysts when they are designing interventions and programmes and need to use a series of robust outcomes and indicators to measure their work with.  It was designed specifically with non-impact analysts (ordinary people in other words) in mind.

In itself, this is useful, but another feature of the website is its ability to link different outcomes and activity sets together into chains of events.  Although not an original intention of the site design, these chains of events are similar to theories of change and highlight the links between different activities and outcomes at a number of levels so that you can eventually see how your project might impact on someone’s well being (for example) in another area of their life that you hadn’t even thought about.

That is a very exciting prospect, not only for NGOs, but also for funders and supporters who want to understand the broader impact that the work they are funding is having.

Data quality is being managed through a series of protocols and a user-rating system.  Data quality will be an important aspect of the Global Value Exchange if it is to gain traction within social enterprises and the nonprofit sectors, but this website is an important aspect of standardising data for a broad range of potential interventions, making it easier (in theory) for organisations to measure their impact more effectively.

If measuring impact could be more effective, then communicating that impact is doubly important.  This is where Data Unity comes in.  I will admit that it took me a while to get my head around just what was so different about Data Unity from sites like Info Gram and other websites that can translate your data into dynamic pictorial representations.  But then it hit me: Data Unity doesn’t store your data on its site.  It simply points towards your data (or any data you choose for that matter) and allows you to design effective visuals to communicate the story sitting within your data set, and you don’t even need to know about pivot tables!

By their own admission the developers are keen to point out that this website is in its infancy and they welcome all feedback.  The website is also open source, so other developers can contribute towards its development over time.  This should help with the development of a range of tools for you to use eventually to make your data as dynamic and accessible as possible.

Interestingly, although launched together, there is no current interface between the Global Value Exchange and Data Unity.  Which seemed an obvious link to those who attend the launch as Data Unity would add considerably to the userblity of the Global Value Exchange and help to drive users and potential users to the site to upload data and information, if they are able to then manipulate that information to develop communication tools like info-graphics from Data Unity.Data_Unity

Data Unity also doesn’t currently have an option to analyse qualitative data, only quantitative data.  Numbers are an obvious place to start, but my own research highlights that almost no-one in the NGO and social enterprise sectors is looking at qualitative data analysis in an accessible way (currently most of this kind of analysis is done at academic institutions and access to those tools appears to be limited).

While the Global Value Exchange feels like it is more complete than Data Unity the truth is that both sites are only going to be as good as their users and contributors.  While Global Value Exchange has thought about this in terms of user ratings and contributing data sets, neither site appears to have considered the social media angle to sharing and managing data and supporting the users of data sets (random tweets from the launch event don’t really count as a social media strategy).  In an increasingly connected world, this could be a crucial omission.

Hopefully, both the Global Value Exchange and Data Unity develop such that they can sit alongside TRASI as key resources for designing and evaluating social interventions.

Have you registered to use either the Global Value Exchange or Data Unity?  What are your experiences of using it?  What other data resources do you use?


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