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Open data has 'enormous potential' for the third sector, Nick Hurd says

By Jenna Pudelek, Third Sector Online, 30 April 2013

Nick Hurd

Nick Hurd

The Minister for Civil Society tells a Nesta event that the government wants to help charities and social enterprises to share useful data

Open data has enormous potential for the third sector, according to Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society.  

Speaking at an event in London yesterday, Hurd said he was determined that charities and social enterprises did not get left behind in making use of the opportunities afforded by open data – data published by organisations that can then be accessed and used by others others as they wish.

He said the government’s transparency and open data agenda was "genuinely transformational" and had the potential to change the relationship between citizen and state.

The event, which was hosted by the innovation charity Nesta, brought together data experts with voluntary and community sector organisations and social enterprises that wanted to improve their data skills.

"We want to look at how we can widen the net to the civil society organisations we deal with in terms of getting data out that is useful and useable," said Hurd.

"How can we broaden this? How can we help civil society organisations maximise the opportunity here? It is about so much more than cuts; it is about helping the sector adapt on many levels.

"Open data has enormous potential for the sector. Skills, capacity and leadership are needed. I’m absolutely determined that charities and social enterprises are not left behind."

At the same session, Peter Wanless, chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund said it should be easier for organisations with similar missions to share insights with each other.

"The traditional funder/fundee model has a number of weaknesses that open data can help to solve," he said. This included the need to be open about failure so that organisations could learn from each other, he said. 

Wanless said the BLF had made available all the sets of data that supported its research reports and was looking how it could experiment with more openness in the way it operated.

"I think there is an opportunity for the charity sector, with support from the BLF where there is a shared sense of purpose, to create the data and the opportunities to have these conversations with one another about what is working," he said.

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