Publication: 2013-08-29


We recognize that [our] vision is ambitious, and realizing it will require many technical, behavioral, and cultural changes. It will necessitate incentives and support so that organizations are better able to supply information, and efforts to enable and encourage people to make productive use of information. While all of these elements are necessary, the focus of this paper is on the information infrastructure for the social sector. By that we mean the architecture that can help to connect, organize and structure information so that it can be supplied and used more easily. We realize that upgrading the information infrastructure will not change the sector's use of information overnight, and that other elements are needed to support the free flow of quality data in the sector. But we believe that in order to move towards a more effective sector, powered by information, we need to begin by strengthening the core building blocks of data exchange.

Our hope is that this paper, together with the new website, can help to expand and amplify a conversation to explore issues, discuss challenges, and discover the best approaches for getting and using better, more reliable, and more consistent data in the social sector. While this paper is an outgrowth of numerous discussions among more than 20 social sector intermediaries that have been part of the Markets for Good collaboration, we realize that we are still very much at the beginning of this journey. As such, we intend this paper to be a "living document"that will evolve as others join the conversation, as new lessons are learned, and as progress is made. While the challenge is great, we are not starting from scratch. There are many important initiatives already addressing many of the issues we see today, and through Markets for Good we hope to build on what exists, and connect, align, and accelerate these works and ideas already in progress. We look forward to your thoughts, and hope you join us as we imagine, and help build, a better tomorrow.


Name:Owen Ambur


Name:Markets for Good



  • Social SectorWhat is the Social Sector? The scope of this initiative is the full social sector: global in reach, consisting of both nonprofit organizations and socially-focused businesses; and inclusive of all stakeholders tied to the sector, including funders, beneficiaries, the government, and others. The social sector consists of all private organizations around the world devoted to creating social good. While the social sector used to be synonymous with nonprofits, the rise of for-profit companiesthat actively seek to create positive environmental or social impact has broadened the definition of the sector. Although there are certainly important differences between nonprofits and social businesses, both share a common goal of creating social benefits and have a common need to measure their impact. The social sector also includes a broad set of stakeholders. In addition to nonprofits and social businesses there are those who benefit from these organizations' programs and services, funders - including individual donors, impact investors, and foundations - multilaterals, evaluation firms, academics, researchers, consultants, the media and other intermediaries. But perhaps the most important other actor is the government. Through grants and payments for goods and services, the U.S. government alone provides more than 30% of U.S. public charities' revenue each year, establishes policies that have a fundamental impact on the sector, and through the IRS collects data on nonprofit organizations via 990 tax filings. Internationally, Official Development Assistance from DAC countries alone reached more than $130 billion in 2011, more than double what it was ten years prior.

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation

  • liquidnet