Optimising foundations’ use of data

Exploring the challenges and opportunities for data use in philanthropy


The emerging fields of data and artificial intelligence offer many exciting possibilities. Data could help us work at a larger scale than ever before, improve efficiency, and problem solve more effectively. But the potential for controversy means foundations across world are grappling with their role in these fields. Philanthropy isn’t engaging quickly enough, and is well behind other sectors. Very few large foundations have the capacity or technical knowledge to either shape innovations or determine which ones to back. When they do get involved they face complex challenges about transparency, ownership and ethics.

Our Approach

This scan sought to inspire foundations by showcasing that ways organisations and sectors around the world are already using data to create positive societal change. It highlighted the different ways philanthropy is engaging with data and AI, outlined the key challenges of working with data, and presented future opportunities for foundations to take inspiration from.


This work is supported by, and carried out in partnership with, Nesta (UK), Lankelly Chase (UK), The McConnell Foundation (Canada) and the Robert Bosch Foundation(Germany).