Have you ever done a literature review for a non-profit or tried to calculate a return on investment? Did you find yourself scouting for data that felt almost impossible to find? The exercise can easily stretch from hours into days if you’re not careful. If this sounds vaguely familiar, you may like what I’m about to share.

This week marked the launch of the Global Value Exchange, a replacement to WikiVOIS, a initiative that sadly didn’t gain much traction. Global Value Exchange is an open data resource that aims to aggregate information on outcomes and indicators to help organisations articulate their value, and provide researchers, funders and policy-makers with information. In layman terms, it’s Wikipedia for the non-profit sector.

I see both strengths and limitations: it is needs to be populated with more data, but I’m excited about the tool’s potential. Here are three reasons why:

  • It turns non-computable information into something ready-for-use. Imagine you’re looking for cost savings in the criminal justice sector in the UK. You can use the tool to compare costs across multiple data sources, but collated in one place under one outcome area. It saves time and may provide a valuable first point of call in your research. The developers have even installed automatic currency conversion and inflation rate adjustments.
  • It’s open source. In other words, it relies on people like you and me to populate it with data. You may rightly ask, what does that mean for the quality of the data? Well, there is a rating system which will help to control the rigour of inputs. But the advantage of open source is that anyone can input and share new data. Some people may naturally be sceptical about sharing but others know you can learn. We only stand to gain.
  • It’s free. This is a no-brainer. A sector where majority of charities have an income under £100,000, the provision of useful free resources is important.

The tool is not a solution to all of our measurement problems. It will not automatically do a literature review for you. There is also tons of works yet to be done to improve open data access. But the Global Value Exchange is creating something unique and potentially very useful. The beauty of it is just like Wikipedia: it’s free and may serve as a good first step to your literature review. Remember the frustration when hunting for data? This tool takes us one step closer to a solution. Being alone and innovative is daunting but being in a group of innovators is exciting. So let’s go on and share.

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