The SmartyGrants Innovation Lab is where we seed ideas to do old things better or new things first.

Our parent enterprise Our Community’s founding aim in 2000 was to build stronger communities through stronger community organisations. Since 2009, SmartyGrants has helped keep the money moving, with billions of dollars now moving into the not-for-profit sector more efficiently.

By forging partnerships with business, government, and philanthropy SmartyGrants has accelerated our impact and increased our reach beyond our home zone of Australia. We’re now servicing grantmakers in 42 countries around the world.

Now there’s a new currency powering social reform. Data is reshaping our world. New tools allow us to collect, distil, understand, and act on data like never before, hastening the pace of change. We want to make sure the social sector can grasp the possibilities presented by these new tools.

Our values

Together with Our Community’s Manifesto, the Innovation Lab is guided by these principles:

Data is merely a means to an end.
  • Data is valuable. Data should be seen as a community resource that can be used to inform decision-making and thereby create social good.
  • People matter. Data without context, expertise and people-centred values is worse than useless. Data should support and inform decisions; not dictate them.
  • Useful beats interesting. Every time.
  • Data should serve an agenda. Start with the questions, not the data.
Context matters.
  • Stories count. Numbers need words; words need numbers. There is almost always a place for both.
  • Learning is better than punishing. Transparency and accountability should be driven by a desire to inform and progress, not shame, reprimand and punish.
  • As open as you like. We balance our enthusiasm for open data with our belief in an organisation’s right to learn in private.
We’re all in this together.
  • None of us is as smart as all of us. Individuals and organisations that work in silos limit their progress and are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. We look for opportunities around the world to collaborate and share what works.
  • Sector-based silos need to come down. Not-for-profits do not have a monopoly on creating social good. If your intentions are sound, you’re on the team.
We must lower the barriers to entry.
  • Access is imperative. Small organisations can create big impacts if they have access to the right knowledge and tools. Giving good organisations with small budgets access to data resources creates opportunities that can be reaped by society as a whole.
  • To scale, it must be simple. We have a responsibility to create tools that are simple enough for anyone to use.
  • Decisions need to be explainable. Black-box algorithms are risky. We need to be able to explain the rationale, strengths, weaknesses and future behaviour of our models.
  • Data literacy is fundamental. Basic data language and concepts need to be understood by all people, regardless of age, sector and role.
Change is inevitable.
  • We embrace change where it signals progress.
  • We strive to gain and keep the confidence of our stakeholders by articulating and living out our data principles.
  • We hold ourselves to high standards but never seek to hide our human frailties. If we make a mistake, we’ll acknowledge it, and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  • We adhere to the highest standards of data governance, particularly when it comes to personal data. We treat your data as we expect others to treat our own.
  • Speed matters. Deferring action is not an option. Ready, fire, aim.

Our goals

  • To facilitate strategic connections between not-for-profit organisations & data scientists

  • To improve the data technology attitudes & capacities of the not-for-profit organisations who engage in our data science programs

  • To create a larger, livelier, more competent community of ‘data scientists for social good’ in Australia

  • To create efficiencies and increase organisational & programmatic effectiveness through individual & joined-up data science projects

  • To contribute to the creation of a more tech-smart, data-savvy, outcomes- & evidence-focused not-for-profit sector in Australia.

Policies and practices

We’re mindful of our obligations to provide proper stewardship and safeguards over the data that’s in our keeping.

Data ownership, privacy and confidentiality are top of mind as we navigate the new era.

Our data reference group provides input into our decisions as we transition our policies and practices, nut out answers to some of the more difficult questions around access and security, and help gauge how our user base might respond.

Our policies and practices are designed to support our ambitious agenda, while maintaining our hard-won position of trust.

You can contact us by emailing innovationlab@ourcommunity.com.au.