[Translate to English:] Workshop-Raum im Berliner Gebäude der Bertelsmann Stiftung. Eine Tischgruppe im Rechteck um die sich rund 30 Personen sitzend versammeln.

More Open Data from Civil Society

Together with numerous non-profit organizations, the Data for Society project organized a kick-off workshop on November 8, 2022 at the foundation’s Berlin office on the exploratory initiative More Open Data from Civil Society. 


Foto Petra Klug
Petra Klug
Senior Project Manager
Foto Mario Wiedemann
Mario Wiedemann
Senior Project Manager


In Germany, the term “open data” often refers to open government data: data that public administrators make available free of charge and in machine-readable form for others to use as they like. Federal, state and local authorities can publish open data – but they are not the only ones. Business organizations can release some of their data to benefit the common good – even if this has happened only rarely until now.   

 Civil society could play a pioneering role here. One the one hand, data from government sources could serve as a useful tool allowing civil society organizations to document their need for funding, generate data-driven reports or articles, and identify potential areas of activity. On the other hand, civil society could itself become a provider of data. Non-profit organizations are philanthropic in nature and, by making data freely available, could further contribute to the public good. Yet only a few civil society organizations in Germany currently publish open data.  

Background to the More Open Data from Civil Society initiative

Open data from civil society organizations offer considerable potential. For example, if users can access data from multiple data providers instead of just their own organization, this increases the benefits generated by the data as well as the social impact. Extensive data expertise already exists in civil society, but very few data from civil society are being released as open data. Our aim is to close this gap in cooperation with other civil society organizations.  

The Bertelsmann Stiftung has also set itself the goal of making significantly more open data available in the coming years. The concept of open data is already firmly anchored in a number of our projects, e.g. in Wegweiser Kommune (Community Roadmap) through open licenses and a technical interface. Over the long term, we want to take an “open by default” approach at the foundation and make all data freely accessible where legally possible. 

Many civil society organizations took part

Against this background, the Bertelsmann Stiftung invited interested civil society organizations to Berlin on November 8, 2022 so they could work together to lay the foundation that will allow more (open) data from civil society to be made available to civil society.

Representatives of the following organizations attended the workshop: Körber-Stiftung, Deutsche Stiftung für Engagement und Ehrenamt, Wikimedia, the German Red Cross, AWO, Deutsche Welthungerhilfe, GovTech Campus, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs. 

At the beginning of the event, three impulses highlighted the benefits that (open) data offer civil society organizations. One was contributed by Claudia Juech, who lives in the United States and currently works as a freelance consultant. Previously, she held leading positions at the Rockefeller Foundation and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation where she was responsible for data projects. She also helped establish the Cloudera Foundation. Her written presentation is available for download here.

“How open data from civil society add social value”

Following that, the entire group collected questions which were then addressed in breakout sessions. The following questions, among others, were discussed in detail: 

  • How can data be made available through actionable, low-threshold infrastructure?  
  • Which additional stakeholders would be interested in this topic, and how would it be possible to integrate the data expertise already present in the civic-tech community? 

The kick-off workshop facilitated networking among individuals interested in a More Open Data from Civil Society initiative, while also bringing to light the issues that necessarily result from such an initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Data for Society project team will be intensively working to give the More Open Data from Civil Society initiative a clearer profile. It will also hold further discussions on the subject. We also plan to create two to three small working groups that will continue examining specific issues, such as data infrastructure. At a follow-up workshop next year, we will discuss more concrete steps and look at what has been achieved to date. 

If you are interested in receiving documentation from the workshop, we would be happy to send it to you. We would also like to hear any feedback you might have, as well as any suggestions for other stakeholders who should be included in the initiative.