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The GO Lab recently launched an International Network for Data on Impact and Government Outcomes (INDIGO) with a peer learning group meeting on 25th June. Upcoming opportunities to shape this new initiative include a series of “Hack-and-Learn" sessions in parallel with the Social Outcomes Conference. Register here for the Hack-and-Learn kick off on the 27th of August. 

I joined the Government Outcomes Lab as an intern to work on a project related to data and social outcomes. Working with my colleagues Eleanor Carter, Ruairi Macdonald and Tanyah Hameed we organised a new initiative where the objective is not only to work with data, but to create a community.  The International Network for Data on Impact and Government Outcomes – INDIGO – is fundamentally about supporting use of data for policymaking in social programmes. We know that helping more people share and use quality data will improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of outcomes-based projects designed to address complex social problems. We recently had our first INDIGO peer learning session, which was focused on use cases: we asked participants to articulate how they would use data about social outcomes - and why. 

Who joined the first INDIGO peer learning session?

We had a wide variety of participants in terms of roles, policy domain, and geography. There were people from local and national governments, social investors, non-government organisations, service providers, researchers, graduate students and many others showed their interest in using more and better data. We had participants from Europe, Asia, North America and Latin America. Going forward, INDIGO would benefit from participation by African academic and other institutions with an appetite for social policy and data.

What did we learn?

Adopting a user-centred approach, each participant described how they might use data and expressed under what conditions they would benefit from this initiative. Given the diversity of the group, participants were interested in very different themes. However, there were three areas of interests that were shared by the entire group.

1. INDIGO participants want to look into other outcome-based projects and make comparisons. All the participants claimed that good-quality data should include granular data by sector, subsector and policy themes. Moreover, information about user or beneficiaries should also be disaggregated by gender, socioeconomic level, nationality, etc. There was a desire to share comparable data to help our community to  design better projects and perform robust analysis about the performance of different projects.

2. INDIGO participants want to share information about their own projects. Service providers keep records of the development of the outcomes they intend to achieve; they want to show this record to other investors if they want to attract more funds. Investors monitor their financial gains and losses,  and want to show the profitability and impact of their investments. Some participants also want to describe the non-financial technical support that they provide to their investees.  

3. INDIGO participants want to tell the world about all the projects in the social impact sector. Transparency is a word that was repeated several times. One of the promises of social-outcomes contracts is to deliver better social results than other approaches. Questions were raised: If we do not share data about those results, how can we show outcome payers and the public that we are fulfilling our promises? How can we advocate for scaling projects up if we do not have accurate data about their results? Attendees highlighted that not having these data makes it harder to attract more investment and funding and is  limiting the growth of this outcomes-based approach. 

So, what’s next? 

The 2020 Social Outcomes Conference is approaching. As part of our Conference, the INDIGO network will run a Hack-and-Learn Event, where coders and policymakers will meet to ask questions to our data and build some insightful data visualisations. The event will be co-hosted with the Beeck Centre for Social Impact and Innovation of the University of Georgetown. If you are interested in this initiative, you can register here. For this event, we will have some new data will be available via a new open source database for us to analyse and improve against the use cases identified by attendees in the first peer learning event.   

I am thrilled to be working with such an inspirational and impactful group of data users. I am struck by how INDIGO is product of a co-creation with a broad and diverse community. The core of this initiative is not data per se, but the network of data users. If you want to use better data for better social outcomes so I encourage you to join the INDIGO community! 

Register for Hack-and-Learn here. If you would like to be added to our INDIGO mailing list, please send an email to indigo@bsg.ox.ac.uk. In case you missed our first INDIGO peer learning session, you can watch the recording here.