In theory, the social sector should be ready and willing to share ideas for maximum public benefit.
In reality, though, many incentives work against sharing intellectual property (IP). Innovations are often held close for competitive advantage in a tough funding market, or are not articulated as ‘intellectual property’ because ideas are not seen as something to be invested in and valued.
Licensing and social franchising may seem like obvious solutions, but their use to date has been limited. So, recognising the massive potential gains for the sector to opening up IP, we’ve been exploring alternative approaches, working with experts in IP in other fields, and looking at experiments to test out ideas.
—a project by , the and our tech partner —is an experiment in data sharing in the field of children’s services. We’re interested in testing an important hypothesis: is access to other data a sufficient incentive for organisations to share their own data?
At NPC, we think questions around information sharing and open data are some of the most critical currently facing the sector. On the one hand, sharing data brings key benefits. It allows organisations to see what others are doing—and what works—and to learn from them. It helps to raise standards of data collection and analysis. It gives a collective voice to the sector, with the possibility of influencing policy. And it gives beneficiaries a map of available services.
On the other hand, you can see why charities may choose not to share data. Organisations might be concerned about protecting the intellectual property of their service designs. There might be a lack of suitable platforms for collecting and accessing shared data. Perhaps most importantly, there often isn’t a direct and immediate benefit to sharing information. Even if a charity is driven by a concern for shared beneficiaries, why would it share data when it can’t be sure to receive anything in return?
Supportshare.org is designed as a solution to this problem. It allows organisations to share information about support they provide for children who have been abused or neglected. The information is entered at three levels:
- At the first level, general information such as contact details and a basic description of the organisation, is open to all—including those who have not registered on the site.
- The second level gives detailed information about services: duration, frequency, and other output data. This level is only accessible if the user has entered information about at least one of their own services.
- The third level is data about outcomes: users enter data on impact and evaluations of their services. This third level can only be accessed by organisations that have also provided impact data about their own programmes. To put it simply, a user has access to information about other organisations’ services or impact data only if they have provided data on their own services or impact.
The aim is that accessing other organisations’ impact data is a strong incentive for organisations to sign up and share their own data. The site will hopefully function as a platform for the sharing of information on services and impact, and a step towards making data about child protection services more accessible and more powerful. Supportshare.org operates on an underlying principle of data reciprocity: ‘you give, you get’.
We will see how this experiment goes. We will be publishing a short paper around it and some of the wider ideas (IP, open data, and the potential for data collaboration) in due course.
If your organisation or an organisation you know works in the area of young people recovering from trauma and abuse, head over to Supportshare.org and get involved. We hope that if successful, the model could be extended to other areas of work, and help raise the standard of the whole charity sector.