2017 was the third year of OKI Open Data Day Mini-grants scheme. Although we are working on it for a while, we never had the time or capacity to write our learnings from the last two schemes. This year, we decided to take more time to learn about the project and improve it. So we decided to look at the data and share our learnings, so the open data day community can use it in the future.
This year, we used some of our Hewlett grant to team up with groups all over the world who are doing open data day events. We were also lucky to find more funding thanks to Hivos, Article 19, Foreign Commonwealth Office and SPARC. Each partner organisation had their own criteria for the giving the mini-grants. This blog post refers only to the OKI scheme – Open Data for Environment and Open Data for Human Rights. We did include some figures about the other grants, but we can not write about their rationale for how to distribute the money.
How did we decide on the themes for the scheme?
In past years, we awarded the mini-grants without any clear geographical or thematic criteria. We simply selected events that looked interesting to us or that we thought can spark discussion around open data in places where it is not done. We also gave priority to our network members as recipients.
This year, we decided to be more systematic and to test some assumptions. We set up a staff-wide call to discuss the scheme and how it will be built. We decided that Open Data Day is a great opportunity to see how data can be used, and we wanted to limit it to specific topics so we can see this use. Themes like education and health were thrown into the air, but we decided to focus on the environment and human rights – two fields where we saw some use of open data, but not a lot of examples. We tried to gather all that we know on a doc, that then became a staff-wide collaborative work.
We also set other criteria in the meeting. We wanted to see small tangible events rather than big ideas that can not be implemented in one day. We also wanted to see the actual use or promotion of use, rather than a general presentation of open data.
After speaking to David Eaves, Open Data Day spiritual father, we decided to add also a Newbie fund, to support events in places where open data is a new thing.
See all of the details that we gathered here.
What themes did people apply to?
(Note that FCO joined the grant after the submissions phase closed, and therefore there is no dedicated track for their grant)
Who applied for the grant?
In the 2.5 weeks, we got 204 applications, the majority from the Global South. Just to compare, in the 2016 scheme, we got 61 applications, the majority of them from the Global North. This means that this year we had 3 times more applications to deal with..
View Open Data Day 2017 Mini-Grant Applications in a full screen map
As you can see in the map (made by our talented developer advocate Serah Rono), more than half of the applications (104 if we want to be precise) came from the African continent. Our staff members Serah Rono, David Opoku and Stephen Abbott Pugh, have good networks in Africa and promoted the applications in them. We believe that the aggressive outreach that the three did and the fact that other individuals who champion open data in Africa helped us to promote it are the reason for the increase in applications from there.
In both of our the tracks – human rights and environment, around 25% of the applications we got were from groups who didn’t work with open data or group that didn’t suggest an activity on the theme – 15 in human rights track and 13 in the environment track.
How did we choose who will get the grant?
4 of our staff members – Serah, David, Oscar and Mor gave a score to each application
-1 – the application did not meet the criteria
0 – the submission met the criteria but did offer anything unique not
1 – The submission met the criteria and offered a new perspective on data use on the topic.
We tried to make the bias as little as possible by having a diverse committee from different genders and locations. We decided not take into consideration where the application is coming from geographically and gender sex of the applicant.
In our final list, when we had two applications from the same country, we tried to give the money only to one group.
What should we have paid attention to?
Gender. Our friends from SPARC checked that they distribute the grant equitably between men and women. We decided to investigate the gender of the applicant for our grants. Since we didn’t ask for the applicant’s gender in the application form, we tried to determine their genders through their names and validate it through a google search. Out of 202 applications, 140 were made by men, and only one applicant was a joint gender application. (See visualisation).
We don’t know why more men apply than women to the grants and it will be good to hear if other organisations had the same experience with this topic. If so, it is important to see why women are not applying for these opportunities.
Who received the grant?
Unlike previous years, this year we took the time to reply to all the applicants about their status as fast as we could. However, we realised that answering back takes longer t
Also, we published all winners in a blog post before open data and tried to keep the process as transparent as we can. See our announcement blog post here. However, during the last couple of month, some groups could not organise the event, and they asked us to give the money to someone else. These groups were from Costa Rica, Morocco, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Brazil. We decided, therefore, to give the grant to another group, Open Knowledge Philippines, for their annual Open Data Day event.
Since some of the groups that applied had no experience in open data, we wanted to try and give the grant to two of these so we can build capacity and see how open data can become part of their work. However, since we announce the winner a week before open data day, we didn’t have enough time to work with them so the event will be meaningful. We are currently looking at how we can cooperate with them in the future.
What were the outcomes?
All of the learning from the grant recipients are on our blog where you can see different types of data use and the challenges that the community is facing in getting quality data to work with. Some of our recipients started to inquire more about OK network and how to participate and create more events. We would like to hear more from you about how to improve the next open data day by writing on the open data day mailing list.