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Eric J. Henderson

Conversation Curator, Markets For Good

Curator’s Note: Variations On a Theme

05 Feb, 2013

Variations On A Theme by Haydn (Brahms) - imslp.org

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been examining the theme of Beneficiary Feedback. We’ve chosen “beneficiary” for convenience, but even finding an appropriate word (consumer? constituent? recipient?) is more than semantics, giving insight into how an organization perceives the people it proposes to help. A brief tour of the sector shows encouraging efforts, but also reveals that we have a way to go with respect to how we collect feedback, extract knowledge from it, and deploy it for impact.

Marny Sumrall showed that beneficiary feedback is, in the first place, not a technical concern as much as an organizational/cultural one: Are you and your organization ready to hear from the people you serve? John Hecklinger, of Global Giving, highlighted one of the technical difficulties that we can address right now: the interoperability of data platforms. Mauricio Lim Miller makes a a strong case for changing our mindsets: “Low-income people and communities receive a lot of attention when it comes to charitable giving and “helping those in need.” But these communities are an untapped market place for smart investments…” The comments of other contributors revealed interesting meta-themes, such as using beneficiary feedback to influence policy as demonstrated by Denise Raquel Dunning‘s use of digital media for advocacy in Liberia and Deborah Visser‘s discussion of Success Measures, a project of the congressionally-chartered intermediary NeighborWorks America.

Up next: Open Data. In the broad sense, Open Data is “the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.” To kick off this discussion, we are featuring the Aspen Institute launch of the Form 990 report, Information For Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data.

Over the next few weeks, we will take sharp aim at defining the current state of Open Data in the social sector, identifying tech trends in liberating data, and tracing the route to impact on the ground through the commentary and case studies of our guest contributors. We will hear from such voices as Tim Berners-Lee of the Worldwide Web Foundation, and former US Ambassador Curtis Chin on openness and transparency in the ngo sector.As well, we’ll highlight some new resources on the scene, dealing with our current theme, Open Data, and our general theme of upgrading the information infrastructure in the social sector, such as: Getting Started With Data-Driven Decision Making: A Workbook by NTEN (The Nonprofit Technology Network)

Future Themes

As we move forward, we’ll continue to orient content around a different theme or topic each month. Our themes for the first half of 2013 will include:

  • 01/31- 02/22 – Open Data
  • 02/25-03/15 – Technology infrastructure
  • 03/18-04/05 – Using data to evaluate nonprofit performance
  • 04/08-04/26 – Big Data
  • 04/29-05/17 – Data for Fundraising: Data and other tools to drive giving.
  • 05/20- 06/07 – Data in decision-making

Call for submissions: If you are working in any of these areas, we’d welcome your blog posts for review. Submit them at info@marketsforgood.org, or send questions our way.

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  1. avatar
    James Bernstein
    February 07, 2013

    I am struck by your reference to Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn as a metaphor. Why did you pick that rather than say the Goldberg Variations or The Musical Offering?

    Just a curious question!


  2. avatar
    James Bernstein
    February 07, 2013


    • avatar
      Eric J. Henderson
      February 11, 2013

      James: I’d be pleased to hear more about your ideas on data in evaluation of health interventions. We have scheduled an upcoming editorial theme on the topic of Evaluation.

      …on Brahms. Well, the title made itself as I looked at the various takes on beneficiary insight. Apart from that, the music just helped me write, sounding so good at the time. But since you’re on Bach, I’d love an excuse to sneak in The Chaconne, another solid engine for thought on Variations.


  3. avatar
    March 05, 2013

    [...] of “Beneficiary Feedback” is both enlivening and sobering. In his summative post our curator, Eric Henderson, rightly highlights the “encouraging efforts” to cultivate feedback for greater impact. But I [...]

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