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The Need for a Commons for Grantmaking and Grants Data

We describe the needs for a grantmaking commons and the benefits that come along with establishing the commons. We include resources for the start of a commons, starting with human capital and grants proposal data. We conclude with resources and principle considerations.

Published onJul 26, 2022
The Need for a Commons for Grantmaking and Grants Data

Grantmaking needs a commons of open grant data. This would ideally improve transparency, streamline processes, and improve understanding of how individual grantors and the sector as a whole is impacting and shaping the spaces of problems and solutions.

A grants commons may include data about

  • challenges (RFPs, challenges, topics)

  • proposals and their reviews (ideas, formal proposals, reviews)

  • projects (implementations, resulting sites + events + processes)

  • teams (organizations, people)

  • funders (foundations, reviewers)

  • impact (evaluations, reports)

  • shared standards (methods, schemas, vocabularies, interfaces)

We also need workflows for gathering, curating, and sharing data; for integrating them into an accessible whole; and for making public interfaces to them.

Projects building towards a grants commons

  1. OGrants : Alliance of grantors wanting to share grant data

  2. Philanthrobotics (aka: Open Grants Commons) : this site! Shared visualizations, proposal datasets, essays on advancing grantmaking through open data

  3. Philanthropy Data Commons -
    a) a common grant app, shifting how grantors engage with grantees
    b) making structured data available, letting orgs maintain their own systems + practices, enhancing existing systems by adding interop.

  4. Places to publish individual grants

    1. RIO Journal (Research Ideas and Outcomes : publishing all stages of research, incl. hundreds of grant proposals)

    2. Zenodo, Lens

    3. OGrants list

  5. Individual grantors with public proposal data

    1. Wikimedia movement grants

    2. Gitcoin grants

  6. Bulk or national sources of data

    1. Causebot (via IBM Watson): eFile grants (2010-16, needs update)

    2. UK grants: Grantnav (via 360giving)

    3. EU grants

  7. Candid : data about grant sources


Equity, proportionality: building something whose balance represents the balance of the world we want

Interoperability, forkability: building something that can be used alongside

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