The heart of NYU Wagner's programs is our faculty. An amalgam of full-time, clinical/research/visiting, and adjunct professors, they are outstanding teachers, expert researchers and committed practitioners.
In 2010, nonprofits in the U.S. numbered 1.5 million, with $1.51 trillion in revenues, and to find particulars or overall trends about this vast and growing sector of the economy, many people use the Form 990. This is the financial and organizational report that every tax-exempt organization submits annually to the Internal Revenue Service.
Yet, like many public documents, the forms are not so easy for researchers, practitioners, and others to access and analyze.
Writing in a recent paper, Beth Noveck, a visiting professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, along with co-author Daniel L. Goroff, a program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, asked whether government transparency could be enhanced with technology to better support innovation, engagement, and outcomes in the nonprofit sector.
Noveck, who formerly led President Barack Obama’s Open Government Initiative, is immersed in studying the broad, important issue of how governments can better use tech-enabled platforms to engage the citizenry. In her Aspen Institute paper with Goroff, entitled “Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data,” she finds that, like other data collected by the U.S. government, the information in the Form 990s could be far more beneficial “if it were not only ‘public’ but ‘open’ data.” That is: “Available to all, free of charge, in a standard format, published without proprietary conditions, and available online as a bulk download rather than through single-entry lookup.
“Making the 990 data truly open… would not only make it easier to use for the organizations that already process it,” the authors write, “but would also make it useful to researchers, advocates, entrepreneurs, technologists, and nonprofits that do not have the resources to use the data in its current form.”
The move would also encourage greater transparency by nonprofits, spur innovation in the sector, and “above all, help us to understand the potential value of the 990 data,” note the authors.
At present, the IRS creates Form 990 image files and sells DVD compilations to subscribers.
“Just as most people have gotten accustomed to sharing large files via a service like Dropbox, it would be simple for the IRS to publish the returns online for anyone to download in bulk for free,” Noveck wrote in a recent blog post about the paper.
But if converting the Form 990 into an open-data government document sounds straightforward, the co-authors find that it isn’t a simple delivery. Liberating government data of all kinds, they write, typically requires overcoming technological, political, and cultural barriers to change.
[Originally appeared in NYU Research Digest, Spring 2013].
A host of outstanding Wagner individuals and groups have been recognized by New York University as recipients of the 2013 President's Service Awards.
The recipients, who were honored at a ceremony on April 17, include:
Wagner Environmental Policy and Action (WEPA) for their efforts in working tirelessly alongside Wagner staff, NYU's Sustainability Office and NYU Facilities to create a workable composting system at Wagner's offices in the Puck Building.
Wagner Health Network (WHN) for their innovative approach to student professional development, quality programming and unparalleled partnerships with the school and the university.
The Wagner Review for its commitment to and success in promoting rich dialogue on issues of public service among members of the NYU community.
Claudia Espinosa for exceptional leadership in founding the L.O.V.E. Mentoring Program and her commitment to serving the Latina community.
Matthew Guidarelli for his admirable efforts in coordinating the 2012 Social Enterprise Boot Camp.
All the winners have done themselves, and Wagner, proud!
Click here to view photos of the event.
NYU Wagner’s Maria Claudia Sarta Herrera, Jessica Troiano and Elizabeth Kelly made a commitment under the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) to create an all-natural beverage company. Their project - UPleaft - will generate income for farmers in Colombia and give consumers a healthier alternative to traditional high-sugar soft drinks. The project will establish partnerships with urban and rural small-holder farmers to create a sustainable income source. The students also hope to mobilize members of the community to train farmers in eco-friendly farming, harvesting and processing techniques, as well as provide them with access to financial services.
Upleaft was one of 16 commitments featured at the Clinton Global Initiative University held at Washington University in St. Louis on April 6. Upwards of 1,000 students representing more than 300 universities and 75 countries were in attendance.
The meeting examined critical topics, such as combating prescription drug abuse among young people, what it takes to launch a business as a young entrepreneur, and how to empower the next generation of girls and women around the world. Students gained further insight into today's pressing global challenges and acquired the skills needed to make progress on their own Commitments to Action.
Before the event was concluded, TV comedian Stephen Colbert “interviewed” former President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, and some of the student presenters, including Wagner's own UPleaft creators.