Open knowledge for the social sector

Alex Green

The Challenge

Many organisations (including NPC) conduct research, evaluate programmes and services, and publish guides for charities and funders. Even more organisations generate valuable knowledge through their work but don’t manage to publish it. While those that do, tend to publish on their own sites in a variety of different formats.

This means that it’s really hard to find research in the social sector. There’s no way to search across the work produced by different organisations (like Google Scholar can search across different academic journals), there are no standards around publication so it can take quite a long time to work out what kind of evidence a report is based on and many really valuable findings don’t get published at all because there’s no time to write (and format) a 20 page report.

The Opportunity

What if there was an open, collaborative platform for publishing, where we could easily share what we’ve learned, find relevant research that’s already been done, and build on each others’ work instead of reinventing the wheel?

There’s also a lot of great research already done, but even if it’s online, it’s often not easy to find. If we could take this hidden resource and make it discoverable we could unlock huge amounts of value for the sector from the work we have already done.

What might this be?

There’s a lot we can learn from the world of academic research, where there are multiple elements of  knowledge infrastructure and a growing move towards openness. This might include:

  • Creating shared open publishing platforms that let people quickly and easily publish their research
  • Agreeing formats and metadata standards for publications, datasets and research findings
  • Developing discovery and search interfaces that let people easily find what they’re looking for
  • Building data infrastructure to support searching across multiple publication repositories
  • Finding intelligent, automated ways to convert the hidden treasure trove of past research into standardised searchable formats

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