As I’ve written elsewhere on this site, the world is shifting to one that’s highly networked and exposed, which is enabling new thrifty models of collaboration. We call this the NEXT economy.
The open data movement is a visible manifestation of both Networked and Exposed. We’re seeing numerous examples of data being made freely available via the Internet to either the general public (like data.gov or Global Forest Watch) or among participating members within a sector (like Health Data Consortium). Yet open data’s full potential cannot be realized without Thrifty models of collaboration. Why?
When it comes to solving shared issues like health, education, climate change, deforestation, recycling, poverty, and other issues that affect our society, data alone won’t effect meaningful change. We’re drowning in data, yet what we need are actionable insights for better decision-making across sectors. These insights are being produced all the time by a small percentage of individual organizations, each of which are likely reinventing the wheel with the same data, failing to learn from each other, and lacking the whole-system visibility that comes from having all the cards on the table.
Insight — ie. analysis and/or synthesis of data to produce actionable knowledge — is currently a very expensive proposition. Insights are proprietary, or distributed in a pricy subscription model (think Gartner and Forrester,) or shared openly by NGOs like the research division at WorldBank. Non-proprietary insights are often general in nature, lacking the specificity needed to solve unique challenges by organization, region or issue.
The only way to bring the cost down for actionable insights — thereby dramatically improving access and uptake — is within networked ecosystems where participants produce and freely share insights, applications, and real-world learnings that enable the entire system to get smarter. These “thrifty” ecosystems can only function when the first two criteria — networked and exposed (ie. open) — are present. Fortunately we’re also seeing a trend towards cross-sector collaboration on complex issues, so open insights are feasible to generate today.
In the chart below, we can see how these two trends — open data and increasingly collaborative organizations — naturally feed into each other. The big opportunity for effecting real, measurable change in our complex, systemic challenges lies in enabling insight-driven ecosystems.
And this is precisely what we’re building at BrightPassage: an Impact Acceleration Platform that we call the SmartReef. The goal is to create thriving, engaged, self-evolving ecosystems by drawing from multiple disciplines including:
- biomimicry: what can we learn from complex natural systems like coral reefs?
- sociology & gamification: how can we attract participants and ensure they stay engaged and contributing?
- data science: how can we leverage open data and big data (predictive analytics) to surface the variables associated with successful pilots?
We believe that effective SmartReefs can be built on top of existing open-data initiatives or collaborative initiatives (cross-sector, NGO, industry associations, etc.) where there’s already a sense of shared purpose or interests. If your organization is, or is part of, one of these types of initiatives and you’d like to accelerate your impact, let’s talk. We believe the hot sectors will include healthcare, cities, supply chain, education (and others)… and we’re especially interested in complex intersections like food/water/energy.