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Better data for better social outcomes 

We are joining and playing our part in global efforts towards better data use for better social outcomes. As the Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab) at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, our contribution is to convene an "International Network for Data on Impact and Government Outcomes” or “INDIGO.”

INDIGO is a community of peers from different countries, sectors and policy domains with an interest in sharing data about projects that seek to address complex social problems. The INDIGO initiative includes community activities, a system for sharing data, and various datasets available as open data on the GO Lab website. As an emerging data collaborative, we believe that helping more people share and use quality data will improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of these projects.

Help make INDIGO better: We warmly invite your feedback through the INDIGO Feedback Questionnaire 2020.

INDIGO Video 1: Introduction

INDIGO Video 1: Introduction (PDF Handout)

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Where we are now... 

Imagine you work in local government and want to improve the lives of homeless people in your area. You might be able to find a few case studies of projects that address homelessness, but do you know how other local governments have defined goals for programmes to tackle this problem? Can you find examples of projects that seek to address similar issues? In a similar context?   

Across the world, people are working to solve a wide range of complex problems such as homelessness, long term unemployment or reducing crime rates through projects that use cross sector collaboration. Addressing these challenges often involves the joint work of governments, private sector, and third sector organisations. Even though these collaborations share similar rhetoric and promise, it is often too difficult and expensive to access information about other projects.  

This is why we have started the INDIGO initiative.  Its main objective is to support the use of quality data by policymakers who are addressing complex social and environmental problems. Data standards initiatives already exist in particular sectors, but INDIGO’s key contribution is to harmonise those standards – and culture – across sectors involved in impact bonds and other outcome-based projects. We are collaborating with existing standards. We are borrowing wheels, not reinventing them.   

Who is INDIGO for? How? And Why?

INDIGO has a wide variety of users and use cases, many of which were discussed at our first Peer Learning Group Meeting in June 2020

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What is INDIGO? 

INDIGO has three layers — each with tools and ways to collaborate

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1. Community  

INDIGO is a community of peers and an emerging data collaborative, we invite you to join us.

Collaborate and grow our community: 

  • Join our INDIGO peer learning group, which has quarterly meetings and an annual Hack-and-Learn 
  • Join our mail list by sending a request to indigo@bsg.ox.ac.uk and/or inviting others to do so
  • Engage with us on Twitter using @ukgolab and #indigoinitiative


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2. System

INDIGO offers a collaborative open process for sharing information about outcomes projects, including data definitions and open source code for our database and data visualisations. We support a quarterly collaborative cycle (illustrated below). The system and cycle include Lab staff who process data, the INDIGO Data Dictionary 2020 and the INDIGO Data Template Spreadsheet. We are grateful to the Brookings Institution for collaborating on many of the data definitions in late 2019. See Data Dictionary 2020 for details. 

Collaborate and improve our system: 

INDIGO_QuarterlyCycle

Illustrated above is our Quarterly Collaborative Cycle, which is ambitious and highly dependent upon collaboration from individuals and organisations around the world. Below is the latest version of our INDIGO Data Dictionary 2020, which is an essential tool in the INDIGO system. 


INDIGO Data Dictionary 2020 V 2.01

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3. Data 

An outcomes-based approach fundamentally involves data on outcomes. Data may be used within an organisation, among a group of organisations, and with external parties including the public. We know that not all data are shared with everyone in the same way. However, INDIGO partners should start with the default position that their data should be shared openly with the public unless there is a good reason not to do so. The public is likely to be another funder, investor, or provider trying to solve a complex social problem so this data will be hugely useful to them. 

To date our focus has been on impact bonds. Our intention is to widen this focus to include other types of collaborations around social outcomes. 

As of September 2020, we offer three datasets:  

  • Impact Bond Dataset Version 2 Beta (Released September 2020). See here.
  • Impact Bond Dataset Version 1 (Archived September 2020). See here.
  • Social Investor / Fund Manager Extension  (Released September 2020). [To be completed September 24, 2020.]

Collaborate and improve our data: 

  • Share your impact bond data using the INDIGO Data Template Spreadsheet including information about
    - New projects
    - Changes or performance updates (ideally quarterly)
    - Clarifications or corrections
    - Confidentiality or sensitivity issues
  • Experiment with the Social Investor / Fund Manager Extension

Email us if you if have any questions or need a place to publish your open data and documents consistent with the INDIGO and/or relevant standards. 


Frequently Asked Questions

What is INDIGO? 

INDIGO is a community of peers from different countries, sectors and policy domains with an interest in sharing data about projects that seek to address complex social problems. The INDIGO initiative includes community activities, a system for sharing data, and various datasets available as open data on the GO Lab website. As an emerging data collaborative, we believe that helping more people share and use quality data will improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of these projects.

Is this about impact bonds or what? 

As of September 2020, our datasets describe impact bonds. We plan to collaborate around additional datasets describing other types of partnerships set up to tackle social and environmental challenges. 

I work on a relevant project. What are you asking me to do? 

We would like you to share data using our INDIGO Data Template Spreadsheet and our Data Definitions 2020.  Email us at indigo@bsg.ac.ox.uk to talk about sharing data on new projects, changes or performance updates on current projects, clarifications or corrections on our data, and/or confidentiality or sensitivity notices. We would also like your feedback using the INDIGO Feedback Questionnaire and INDIGO Data Definitions Improvement Tool. [To Be posted September 3, 2020]

Are you really asking me to complete the entire INDIGO Data Template Spreadsheet?

Not in most cases. For most projects, we have collected data and we are asking you to update the sheet. 

Additionally, we have identified three levels of priority for each tab in the spreadsheet. 

  • Level 1 Priority Tab. Most of the data requested here are the most important and basic. Included here are variables tied to summary statistics and our most common queries across all projects. 
  • Level 2 Priority Tab. Most of the data requested here are of medium importance, advanced, and very helpful – especially when updated regularly. 
  • Level 3 Priority Tab, Most of the data requested here are not deemed urgent as they are unlikely to be available for all projects in the near term. These data are more detailed and are perhaps the most helpful, especially if users can give us feedback on how to improve definitions.

The levels are noted in the INDIGO Data Dictionary 2020 and at the top of each tab in the INDIGO Data Template Spreadsheet.

How good are your data?  

Crucially, data are shared by and for the INDIGO community. Data quality (i.e. accuracy, completeness, consistency, credibility, and currentness) is only as good as the data shared.

Data may be inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent, and/or not current for various reasons: INDIGO is a collaborative and iterative initiative that mostly relies on projects all over the world volunteering to share their data. We have a system for processing information and try to attribute data to named sources, but we do not audit, cross-check, or verify all information provided to us. Not everyone agrees that all these data should be public and those that do agree are very busy. It takes time and resources to share data, which may not have been included in a project’s budget. Many of the projects are ongoing and timely updates may not be available. Different people may have different interpretations of data items and definitions. Even when data are high quality, interpretation or generalisation to different contexts may not be possible and/or requires additional information and/or expertise. 

Nonetheless, INDIGO offers the world’s most complete open dataset on impact bonds and we are collaboratively working towards higher quality data together.

Contact us

We hope that the spirit of innovation and collaboration, so integral to the success of outcomes-based projects themselves, will also carry this initiative forward. Let’s work through these issues together. For more information, please email indigo@bsg.ox.ac.uk.