A database is a collection of records stored in a computer in a systematic way. Information will generally be organised so that it can be accessed by fields such as name, organisation, town or city. It can also be accessed by keywords, for example by topic. People subscribing to a mailing list generally have their information stored in a database. Databases can be used to allow people to share information over the internet. They can also be used to create websites that are very easily updated by different people. Microsoft Access is a popular desktop database but limited in its support for multiple users and collaboration. Other database programs like FileMaker and the open source MySQL are much better suited to shared working, including use in websites.
- Huge amounts of information can be stored and accessed quickly
- A well-designed database allows rapid cross-referencing
- Data can quickly become outdated and unreliable if it is not properly maintained
- Different users may duplicate, delete or input incorrect information
- Information stored in a database is, in the UK, subject to the Data Protection Act www.ico.gov.uk
- Time must be invested in training database users
Case-study on the use of an online database: CAN-Online
Community Action Network (CAN) is a UK organisation for social entrepreneurs. The CAN team and members deliver community projects in almost every field of social change and service delivery. CAN aims to stimulate new, entrepreneurial ways to tackle social problems more effectively and more efficiently by connecting people in communities, bringing together those from voluntary and community organisations with the public and private sectors.
CAN have an internet-based contacts database which can be managed by all its staff and partners, wherever they are located, using an internet connection. They use the database in traditional ways for mailmerges, label printing, event and contact management. Staff can edit records, add new ones and delete them. Data can be exported for use on other applications and imported from other sources. The same database is accessed directly by the CAN website to provide up-to-date information to website visitors on CAN membership.
A single shared database enables collaboration on equal terms by all users. The alternative would involve multiple copies of the data with central control where most users have read-only access to less than up-to-date data.
Advice and support
- Funding and finance
- Coping with cuts
- Addressing needs
- Managing change
- Planning for the future
- Involving people
- Public Service Delivery
- Governance and leadership
- Compact Advocacy programme
- Campaigning and influencing policy
- Collaborative working
- ICT (information and communication technology)
- Climate change
- People, HR and employment