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TRACK: Mapping and Data

Interest is exploding in combining social purpose and commercial enterprises, but information about the scale, scope, growth and performance of such efforts has not kept pace.


Investors need this information to gauge risks and opportunities.  Policy makers need this information to support new economic initiatives and help level the playing field.  Entrepreneurs need this information to improve their performance and identify best practices.  Customers may want to target who they want to do business with.


Current information about this emerging sector of activity tends to be fragmented – with some sources having good information on a single segment of activity but no one having a sense of the whole.  It tends to be inconsistent – with widely varying quality and types of data.  And it tends to be spotty – especially where practices and market conditions are rapidly evolving.


What is needed is a collaborative effort to pool existing information and develop new data sources; organize analytic and research capacities; and provide an ongoing platform for organizations in the sector to share and exchange information most relevant to their purposes.



Mapping and Data


Cathy Benko, Vice Chairman and Managing Principal, Deloitte


Elizabeth Boris, Director, Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, The Urban Institute


Joel Getzendanner, Principal, Commons Consulting


Heerad Sabeti, Convening Trustee, Fourth Sector Networks


Radhika Shah, Co-founder and Chapter Leader, Ashoka Silicon Valley




  • How to create a “data commons,” which provides space for both a shared repository of publicly available data as well as limited access information from proprietary sources.

    • Principles of governance and standards of interoperation.

    • Technical architecture and application interfaces.

    • Participation agreements.

    • Plausible starting points for collaboration.


  • Identifying areas of current research and organizing a comprehensive research agenda.



Both of the above depend on a collaborative effort among those actively participating in the impact economy – those with the best information about what is actually happening -- and those with the technical and social system-building expertise to create an inviting, useful open platform.


Participants are be drawn from four communities of practice, with a sufficiently balanced representation to make it likely that a successful pilot project can result, including:

  • Field curators, especially those with large existing data sets, both open and proprietary,

  • Impact investors, especially those involved in enterprise level investing,

  • Software developers and platform providers, especially those with big data expertise (and ideally some experience in supporting efforts in the field), and

  • Social systems experts, especially those with policy and resource commons expertise.

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