NNIP and Open Data
Since the mid-1990’s, NNIP’s member organizations have worked to “democratize data.” The innovative strategy the early partners developed included negotiating formal data agreements between their organization and each government agencies and then transforming the raw data to neighborhood-level indicators to share with community groups, government agencies, and the public. The political and technological environment today is much different from the early days of NNIP. This project addresses one important shift - the growing momentum of the Open Data movement and its call for governments to release all nonconfidential data.
The emergence of the open data movement also offers opportunities for NNIP partners to forge new alliances around shared values. Both groups strive to improve government operations and promote informed civic participation. Both would also agree that the release of the data is only the first step towards meaningful use by the community, and “translators” are needed to shape the raw files into information.
Our network also has lessons that could refine the messages of the open data movement. For example, the open data proponents do not often reflect on data quality or the potential for misinterpretation of data. NNIP is also concerned about how a reliance on Apps requiring high-end technology might reinforce existing inequities in access to information.
To explore the opportunities and challenges that Open Data brings to NNIP, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation funded the Partnership to consider how its model and practices should adapt based on the progress of open data locally, educate partners about the open data movement, engage with open data advocates and practitioners, and showcase our partners’ contributions to local data. The project has succeeded in helping the partners and network think about how open data relates to all of their work, not as an isolated project or concern.