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Plotting our funded projects on a map – Can we crowdsource a solution?

12 March 2012
A Google map of the Liverpool area with 15 blue and pink pins at various points

A sample of the areas funded by one of our programmes - Big Local Trust

Here at BIG we are developing a new version of our main website. A major new feature will be a map based search of the grants we’ve awarded. This will replace the current grants search with its admittedly clunky user interface. At this stage we imagine it might be similar to this homemade Ofsted school ratings website.

The challenge we have is that a percentage of our awards are attributed to the postcode from where the application came.  In some cases this is not the same location as where the project takes place or beneficiaries of it are.  Our Chief Executive, Peter Wanless has blogged about how this affects statistics about Lottery where funding goes.

Following some of our thinking around People Powered Change in England  we recognise that so much can be achieved by sharing and seeking ideas and inputs from others who are working in this area. So an idea is to crowdsource the correct data. That’s where you come in. On the grants search section of our new website we’ll give users the ability to confirm or correct the location of each BIG funded project.

The full details have yet to be worked out but our initial thinking is:

  • If someone tells us that the location we have for a project is incorrect and provides a new one, we’d trust that and update the website accordingly. While this may seem risky we consider that:
    • there’s little reason for anyone to deliberately submit inaccurate data
    • we can get users to put their (login) name to the submission and a CAPTCHA to prevent spambots etc.
    • we can enable users to report a problem with the data as an alternative to submitting a new location
    • we can keep the original data and revert to it if necessary
    • we may be able to target grant holders with an email request for them to review the details of their grants.
  • If a second person says that the location provided by a previous user is wrong then we can be alerted and investigate to establish the truth.
  • A way for people to confirm the accuracy of the data would also be useful too so we can start establishing a level of confidence in it.
  • The addresses of individuals and sensitive projects will be protected.

Here’s an example of something similar. Location data of post boxes was obtained under Freedom of Information. The accuracy of the data was then fixed by crowdsourcing. As a result a mobile app for finding your nearest post box has been developed using this data.

We believe that this approach will help build understanding and transparency about where our funding goes and also paves the way for us to make the data publicly available so it can be used by others in new, interesting ways, perhaps combined with other datasets.

We’d really like to hear from people who have experience of crowdsourcing like this to help us get it right. If you know of any good examples or sources of advice on crowdsourcing please post them below or email webmaster@biglotteryfund.org.uk.

We are however definitely not looking for consultancy or development agencies so no sales pitches please. Just genuine thoughts, comments and reflections from those that have an interest or may be trying to do this already themselves.  Overly commercial comments will be deleted.

Thanks

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 12 March 2012 5:17 pm

    Many of the recipients of awards are part of larger organisations For example Scouts, WI and so on. Could these organisations provide more detailed postcodes to simplify this process? Also, by grouping the data by over-arching organisation it would be clearer which organistions have had what money, and it what parts of the country. The benefit to these organisations would be they would have access themselves to how much money has been received and where. I am not sure how structured they are, and how such good news gets reported back to ‘central office’.

    This would leave less work to do, as you could just allow updates to the the independent recipients.

  2. Simon Redding permalink
    16 March 2012 10:48 pm

    You probably want to look in these two places for a solution:
    http://www.freepostcodes.org.uk/
    http://ukgaz.ben-daglish.net/cgi-bin/ukgaz.cgi

    Cheers
    Simon

  3. 25 June 2012 11:07 am

    I work for a County Council and at the moment, if I want to do a grants search I have to select South East, but then I can only select one borough area so I end up having to keep the whole region and then filter out the many areas that don’t come under East Sussex. It would be good if any new system took this into account.

    I completely agree with your point about applicant/project location. This would usually be an issue for towns/cities where a large number of groups might be based but would deliver their projects outside this area.

    I quite like being able to visualise data on a map – did it recently when latest BIG Local grants were announced and it was a quick way of seeing distribution of the awards.

    Thanks for asking people to contribute!

  4. Big Lottery Fund permalink*
    7 August 2012 10:39 am

    Thanks for your responses to our blog post. We’re still working on a improved past-grant search system, including crowdsourcing, which we think will be of real benefit to those who want to know in greater details about the history of our grant-giving.

    Central offices could certainly provide postcodes for any of their branches that have been funded. Should we explicitly ask them to do it or would the branches rather we didn’t? Our records only store the organisation that applied and received funding. In many cases, branches are actually separate charities so a keyword search would be required to get a list of funding received by members of over-arching organisations.

    When we send out requests for to add information to project profiles what kind of messages should we use? What do we need to say to motivate people to spend their time on projects that have been long finished?

    The ability to search in more than one category (such as area or theme) is feasible and would be a real positive. However, a more complicated and hence potentially more intimidating user interface would be needed – something we’re be keen to avoid, in favour of keeping things simple for the casual visitor.

    While not ideal, for you we agree, people who want data from more than one category can either filter it themselves from a superset or combine the results from several searches – whichever make more sense. Is there anything we could do to make that easier for you? All that said these are the kinds of things we can revisit once the basic system is in place and we see how it is used.

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