We held our latest User Network Meeting on Thursday 25th June. For those of you who couldn't attend this is a quick write up of the main presentations. Slides from the meeting are available here:

Samuel Clarke from George House Trust, (a charity supporting people living with HIV in the North West) showed us how they use Drupal webforms in combination with other CiviCRM features (Activities, Events, the CiviVolunteer extension, and Scheduled Email and SMS  Reminders) to maintain and update volunteers' personal data on their database, record time spent volunteering, and to manage availability for volunteering activities.

Steven Flower from Open Data Services (and Open Data Manchester, and Manchester CoderDojo and Manchester Social Media Surgery) gave a brief and entertaining overview of Open Data: What it is, where it is, how it's being used and how you can use CiviCRM to create Open Data sets and share them with the wider community.

A PDF Copy of Steven's presentation is available here:
Links to resources featured in the presentation are included in this text file:

The Open Data movement is a relatively new phenomenom, but the potential for sharing knowledge and informing decision making means that it is relevant and useful to voluntary and community sector organisations. Tackling data (and wrestling raw data into maps and graphs) will have implications in staff time, training and resources. Although lot of the tools available to do this (like CiviCRM) are open source and available via the web, there are also forums and sites offering help and advice (and instructions) for anyone making their first steps in working with Open Data.

We also heard from Mike Wild, Chief Officer at Manchester Community Central who as an organisation, have been early adopters of the Open Data ethos and regularly update their own datasets on their website. Partially a pragmatic move (it saves exporting the data every time a request for information is made), but also as an example of practising what they preach as an organisation. They are currently working with a range of organisations( including funding providers and local health authorities) encouraging them to publish and share information that they hold.

Following the meeting, Mike summed up his points in video blog. Concluding with his challenge to other organisations (public, private and voluntary) to make their data available. Their Open Data Policy is even available for sharing and reuse via Github.

The information they share on their site includes grants given to local groups, the groups they work with per quarter as well as sector specific information gleaned about Manchester based groups from the 2013 State of the Sector Survey. Mike acknowledged that a large constraint on going further with Open Data was the lack of staff time, and said that he'd be happy to see the visualisations and applications others could make with their data.

The final session of the morning was led by our Web Support Officer Pheo De Montford, who gave a demonstration of the tools available in CiviCRM for exporting data relating to database contacts, events, memberships, and activities. The morning ended with attendees attempting to extract data from their own sites (see the main presentation), and then the User Clinic Session where GMCVO Databases staff answered database and website questions people had brought with them.

Thanks to everyone who attended, especially Sam and Steven and Mike for their contributions. And thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the feedback form. We got overwhelmingly positive feedback on the mix of sessions. So we'll be keeping the half-day format for the next User Network in October (Thursday 25th) save the date, and book your space now.

We'll confirm the subjects we'll be discussing later in the summer (it will include feedback and highlights from CiviCon). If you want to take the opportunity to showcase how your organisation is adapting and using CiviCRM or if you've got a topic you'd like to see covered please drop us a line.