Open Data

Everyone enjoys discovering interesting datasets, but useful datasets are even better. The problem is that the open data movement has been too successful by some measures.

We have gone from a relatively data poor environment in government and nonprofits to an amazing repositories of open data assets, including Socrata and CKAN’s Open Government data portals, the US Federal portal at, and over 80,000 academic datasets posted on Dataverse.

Data is more useful when it comes with a vignette that provides some information about the nature of the data and potential uses. We will work to update the site with some helpful datasets for public affairs programs in the near future.

In the meantime, enjoy some of these resources:



  • Background on the Open Data Movement [ link ]
  • Ben Wellington’s TED Talk on Open Data in NYC [ link ]


  • The Data Transparency Act [ overview ] [ link ] [ link ] [ link ]
  • Keynote Speech on Importance of DATA Act [ link ]
  • Progress Tracker on Federal Open Data Compliance [ link ]

Impact of Open Data

Guides & Best Practices

  • Project Open Data [ link ] [ principles ]
  • Open North standards [ link ]
  • Sunlight Foundation’s Open Data Guidelines [ link ]
  • Global Impact of Open Data Book: GovLab / O’Reilly [ link ]
  • The Hidden Cost (and Benefits) of Open Data [ link ]
  • Data Maturity Framework [ link ]
  • How to Share Data for Collaboration [ link ]

Government Portal and Resources

  • How to Make Government Data Sites Better [ link ] [ link ]
  • US Cities Open Data Census [ link ]
  • Statewide Portal Tested in California [ link ]
  • Five Largest Cities Now Have Open Data Policies [ link ]
  • 40 Brilliant Open Data Projects for Smart Cities [ link ]

Machine Learning Training Data

  • Top Sources for Machine Learning Datasets [ link ]

Useful Data Sources


Data for Teaching

  • A Little Stats [ link ]
  • Fun Data for Teaching [ link ]
  • Forbes: 35 Open Data Sources of Note [ link ]
  • 100 Interesting Datasets [ link ]
  • Data and Story Library [ link ]

Open Data for the Nonprofit Sector

  • Urban Institute’s NCCS Data [ link ]
  • Nonprofit Open Data Collective [ link ]
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Data by Sector [ link ]
  • Association of Religious Archives Congration Data by County 1950-2010 [ link ]

Poverty Action Lab Catalog of Administrative Data

A guide to data sources that have been used as the basis of sampling frameworks for randomized control trials (RCTs) in the US.

  • JPAL Catalog of Data [ link ]
  • JPAL Publications with Data Available [ link ]

Data-Driven Journalism Project Portals

Data journalists are making their stories transparent by posting the data and code used for their work so that it can be easily replicated or the work can be extended.

Disaster Management

SHELDUS Database [ link ]

Police Data Initiative

The Police Data Initiative is a law enforcement community of practice that includes leading law enforcement agencies, technologists, and researchers committed to engaging their communities in a partnership to improve public safety that is built on a foundation of trust, accountability and innovation. The PDI represents the great work and leadership of more than 130 law enforcement agencies who have released more than 200 datasets to date, and originated as a result of several recommendations in the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that focused on technology and transparency.

Available Datasets

Data Blogs

  • Data is Plural by Jeremy Singer-Vine [ archive ]

“Awesome Data” Catalog

This is just a sample of some datasets that would be relevant to the public and nonprofit sectors from the larger catalog of open public sources curated and managed by AwesomeData.