It was Canada Day this past weekend, and Canadians from coast to coast were marking the 150th birthday of our nation.
There are many ways to celebrate Canada Day. Some go to cottages or beaches, some thrill on amusement park rides. Some hike in solitude to appreciate the vast wilderness we call home, while family barbecues are the order of the day for others. But at the end of the day, we all trek down to lakes or beaches or backyard bonfires to celebrate in a loud, colourful way. And when the party is over, we all must pick our way back to the car in the dark.
If you bring a flashlight to the fireworks, you might have a little bit easier time making your way back. But if many in the crowd are carrying light sources, everyone can walk comfortably in the glow. Sharing data is a bit like using your organization’s own particular lightbulb in cooperation with the light sources of your colleagues and peers, rather than stumbling around in the dark.
Does your data mean what you think it does? The best way to find out is to share it. What can sharing data do for you? Let’s take a look.
Sharing Data Saves Money
This isn’t the most powerful benefit of sharing data, but it’s not one to be overlooked — especially for nonprofits working with limited resources. When we share our light source with others around us or take advantage of a neighbour’s light, it means we don’t all have to pay the electricity bill.
Yes, sometimes, you’ll be the one responsible for collecting the data, and all the resource costs that come with it. But when resources run low, you can count on someone else to keep the lights on while you continue your research.
Think about the last time your organization was trying to measure the impact of your efforts. You collected data and statistics on the community you were working with but lacked the time, money, or staff to conduct research on similar populations so you could compare outcomes. By relying on public data, or research from another group working with a similar population, you could demonstrate your impact without having to come up with the resources to collect the data yourself.
Sharing Data Improves Your Analysis
Imagine you’re inspecting a darkened room — a dusty old attic or basement, perhaps — and you’ve only got one sad little flashlight to help you make out all the details. Good enough if you’re merely trying to make your way through the space without tripping over something, but insufficient if you’re trying to make out the details of objects in the room.
That’s where sharing light sources — or data — can help clarify your view. Like the treacherous walk up from the shore to your car after the fireworks have ended, one light doesn’t quite cut it but a group of lights lets everyone see much more clearly.
When sharing data with other organizations, the insight provided by combined data facilitates improved analysis for all parties involved. You can identify trends you might not have otherwise seen, gain deeper insight into local effects versus global ones, and develop a better understanding of the people or issues you are working with.
Sharing Data is a Better Use of Resources
I’m not just talking about saving money here. Imagine you and two other organizations are all studying the same population, but for different reasons and with different goals. You’re all standing in the same dark room, squinting to make out the details with your flashlights. Which makes more sense — gathering all the light sources in one corner of the room or spreading out to illuminate the entire space?
Sharing data spreads the light out , which means there are no dark corners where important statistics or factors affecting your work can be overlooked. If social sector organizations can work in partnership on different projects for common populations, we can examine the problem from every angle — which makes finding a solution that much more likely.
Does Your Data Mean What You Think It Does?
Share and find out. Sharing data makes better analysis possible, and that means everybody wins. Datassist has worked with youth in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and the southern US, assessing things like physical health, economic empowerment, and social safety. We’ve found enormous differences, but also trends that cut across many situations and cultures.
These young people are a prime example of what sharing data can do. Broadly speaking, experiences and events have much greater impact on a child’s life than demographics. Knowing how often kids have gone hungry tells us far more than knowing their skin colour, and a single immigration affects a child more than their parents’ income level.
Sharing data makes this kind of analysis possible. Of course, good comparisons can be made by analyzing separate data sets — but the best comparisons come from asking the same questions about a single, unified data set. It helps us see the whole person. If our data on income is only focused gender, for example, how can we see what trends in education or immigration might be affecting the results?
We can only see these global connections if we are willing to share data. Unshared data isn’t only harder to confirm, it never tells the full story. On the flip side, sharing data can pool perspectives from Ethiopia to eastern Virginia and give us confidence when pinpointing cause and effect, casting light on influences that separate data sets could never reveal.
Want to learn how to start incorporating external data into your analysis? Download your free copy of our workbook, 7 Steps for Adding Public Data to Your Analysis, or get in touch with the experts at Datassist today — we’re always happy to share.