By Asha Curran, Chief Innovation Officer, Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact, 92nd Street Y.
Since the creation of #GivingTuesday in 2012, many of the most innovative, interesting things that have happened in the movement have happened with groups of people working together, in person, with a spirit of inquiry, fun, and ambition. Collaboration between stakeholders from different sectors, with a common mission to make giving more central in our lives and our society, has always driven the movement. This was as true as ever with our recent DataDive, a collaboration with DataKind and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that both yielded some fascinating findings and opened new paths for exploration.
#GivingTuesday has evolved in unexpected ways in its first five years. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been donated on the day in the US; dozens of local towns, cities, and states have rallied together to celebrate the spirits of those local communities; dozens of countries around the world have used the movement to strengthen their own nonprofit sectors, the foundations of their civil societies. The creativity and collaboration are propelled by the inherent generosity of the #GivingTuesday community, as people and organizations learn and improve and then share those learnings throughout the network.
Along with all that work, of course, massive amounts of data have been amassed, along with countless questions. How is #GivingTuesday impacting giving, and how are giving patterns, in general, changing? What role do technology and social media play? How can we learn more about inspiring giving behaviors, establishing organizational best practices, and encouraging their adoption?
The DataDive was as notable for the process and experience (iterative, experimental) as it was for the results. Thirty-six nonprofit and for-profit giving platforms donated their data to the project. One hundred volunteer data scientists, many from startups or technology companies or corporations, donated their time and their talents for the weekend, guided by data ambassadors and subject matter experts from DataKind, 92nd Street Y and other other key partners. Facebook donated their beautiful space in downtown Manhattan. The group worked all weekend, unearthing often surprising findings. Some will be immediately useful to the sector; some are hypotheses that we’ll now be able to explore further.
We--all of us in the social sector--have a lot more work to do to understand the rapidly changing giving landscape and what forces are driving those changes. That work will be more effective and more powerful if we do it collectively.