The role of philanthropy in using data to address complex challenges: A global scan

How philanthropy can better use, work with and fund data and emerging technologies
Author: Jordan Junge & Kendra Schreiner & Louise Pulford

Foundations all over the world are grappling with their role in the emerging field of data and artificial intelligence. The field is fraught with potential controversy but also with possibility. Data has the potential to help us work at a larger scale than ever before, be more efficient, and solve problems more effectively.

Despite the potential, philanthropy isn’t engaging in this field fast enough, and is well behind other sectors. Very few big foundations have the capacity or technical knowledge to either shape innovations or make sense of which ones to back, and when they do get involved they face complex challenges about transparency, ownership and ethics.

Our purpose in writing this scan is to inspire foundations by showcasing how organisations and sectors around the world are already using data to create positive societal change. It highlights the different ways in which philanthropy is engaging in this field, and briefly outlines the key challenges of working with data before moving to the future opportunities for foundations.

The catalyst for this scan was a retreat hosted by SIX in 2017 on Aligning for Impact’. The retreat was one of the activities of the SIX Funders’ Node – a programme which aims to shift the flow of funding to social innovation and systems change. Over the past two years, we have engaged more than 70 foundations from 17 different countries. Our aim is to catalyse a conversation on how foundations can use data to increase their impact with this scan, and accelerate peer learning.

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).

Download the Executive Summary and the scan in full in the column on the left.

Want to read more great content like this? Sign up to our newsletter for regular updates. 

Picture credit IBM Big Data & Analytics Hub.