The social sector needs access to high-quality, timely information to make better decisions and, ultimately, to have more impact. This is the goal of Markets for Good, a new initiative backed by the Gates and Hewlett Foundations and the financial firm Liquidnet. Better access to social sector information requires a better underlying information infrastructure, allowing information to flow more freely, be structured more clearly, and be aggregated more easily – much in the way that information, and capital, can be shared in the commercial markets.
‘The social sector is huge,’ said Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes when he launched Markets for Good at the recent SOCAP12 conference in San Francisco. ‘One of the ways we can collaborate better is that we can share our data. There are too many questions we can’t answer. Not because the answers don’t exist, but because it’s too hard to get to the information.’
The initiative will, initially at least, take the form of an open discussion to canvass ideas on better ways to collect, classify and exchange information, beginning with a web campaign. Though this effort is new, Markets for Good already has a history. Over the past few years and coordinated by GlobalGiving, it has been a forum for discussion and collaboration among some 50 people representing online giving platforms, non-profit information providers and evaluators, philanthropic advisers and others working to improve the global philanthropic system and social sector.
The website, and the work that the organizers hope will follow from it, is ‘an outgrowth of what we have learned and observed through this collaboration’, according to the site itself. It is seeking contributions from what a press release calls ‘practitioners, developers, evaluators and evangelists’ and contains recent posts and popular tags that users can follow.
The organizers are keen to stress, however, that although this is a discussion forum, it ‘is not about talking: it’s about action, concrete proposals and collaboration’.