At Hewlett, a Thirst for More and Better Development Data

Funders of all kinds are interested in data these days, and we've written about a variety of domestic U.S. grants to use data to improve problem solving and achieve breakthroughs. Meanwhile, at the global level, we wrote recently about Bloomberg Philanthropies' big new push to improve data on the causes of death worldwidea major gap in knowledge regarding public health. 

Related - As Bloomberg Spends More to Save Lives, He Wants Better Data on How People Die

The Hewlett Foundation is another funder with a deep thirst for more and better data. If you dig, you’ll find that across every single one of Hewlett’s major areas of giving, there’s a good deal of money going out the door for research. That's certainly true in its recent global fundingamid discussion of the post-2015 landscape in global health and development.

Hewlett recently awarded the UN Foundation an eight-month, $300,000 grant to provide technical support and written analysis of the post-2015 development process. The end result will hopefully help key players in Africa’s least developed countries engage more meaningfully in the post-2015 development process. This latest give by Hewlett marks the second post-2015 related grant to the UN Foundation in recent months.

In March, Hewlett awarded the UN Foundation a 16-month, $1.2 million grant for its deep dive into improving global gender data. The grant will support the capacity building efforts of the Datat2X project, which is connecting with global experts to establish gender data standards. Women’s economic empowerment and gender equality issues have not only taken center stage in the post-2015 framework, but have become a growing area of focus at the Hewlett Foundation.

Earlier this year, the foundation launched its Women’s Economic Empowerment Strategy, a new line of grantmaking that aims to get a better fix on the economic contribution of women's work in developing countries—and to ensure that a gender focus informs economic policymaking. At the launch of the strategy, Hewlett gave big for a deep data dive to gather accurate information, statistics, and research regarding the economic contribution of women’s work in both formal and informal economies, focusing on developing countries.

Related: Hewlett Shines a Flashlight at Forgotten Women’s Work in Poor Countries

Global health and development is a huge and complex world, and it’s difficult to get where you want to be without some sort of compass. For Hewlett, a key to such compass is data.

Of course, the data created by its grantmaking will be available to lots of other players, too, and herein lies a point about funding data that often doesn't get discussed: This is a way for funders to create shared resources that build society's overall capacity to solve problems. Grantmaking for data projects can be agitating to advocates on the ground. In fact, though, this is a leverage point for philanthropy.