A Curation of Tools for Promoting Effective Data Re-Use for Addressing Public Challenges

Sampriti Saxena
Sep 29 · 6 min read

By Sampriti Saxena, Andrew J. Zahuranec, and Stefaan Verhulst

Photo: Unsplash/Markus Spiske is licensed under CC0

Data can be a powerful tool for change, if made accessible and leveraged responsibly. Since The GovLab’s Data Program began work six years ago, it has structured most of its work around this fact, seeking to tackle many of the complex challenges we face today by enabling access to data.

In this blog, the Data Program provides a curation of tools that we’ve developed over the years to enable systematic, sustainable and responsible re-use of data — i.e. data stewardship. Organized into four categories — each dealing with a topic or issue we’ve studied in our work — this listing gives data practitioners the resources they need to make sense of the data they work with. We hope that it will help practitioners to develop fit-for-purpose approaches when designing open data and data collaboration initiatives.

Data Collaboration

Data collaboration is a new form of collaboration, beyond the public-private partnership model, in which participants from different sectors — including private companies, research institutions, and government agencies — can make data accessible and re-usable to help solve public problems. Our research suggests data collaboration can be a vital tool, bringing previously siloed resources and expertise to bear to address serious public problems such as pandemic response, gender inequities, and climate change.

Three of our tools may be useful in helping to design a data collaborative. These are:

  • Data Collaboratives Canvas: The data collaborative canvas outlines eight phases for designing and implementing a data collaborative (partnership) at an institutional level. The online resource includes examples, enablers, tools, and resources for each phase.
  • Contractual Wheel of Data Collaboration: Created by the GovLab and built from an assessment of legal agreements, this wheel and C4DC’s online library of legal clauses were the bases for our analytical framework. They can also serve as a guide for users to gain a better understanding of the nature and function of data sharing agreements.
  • The Circular City Data Value Canvas: The GovLab developed “Data Value Canvases” to better understand the different aspects of city-centric data collaboratives. This framework explains the context of value propositions, identifies beneficiaries, highlights enabling and disabling conditions and notes proxies for monetary value.

Open Data

Open data, alongside data collaboratives, is critical in connecting the supply for data with the demand for it. The GovLab has published a range of publications on Open Data and its impact. Below we curate three resources on open data that can be useful to data practitioners seeking to launch it:

  • Open Data Demand Methodology: The GovLab, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, and with the support of the French Development Agency developed the Open Data Demand and Assessment Methodology (Beta) to provide open data policymakers and practitioners with an approach for identifying, segmenting, and engaging with demand.
  • Periodic Table of Open Data: Based on the existing literature and case studies, we have developed a Periodic Table of Open Data Elements detailing the enabling conditions and disabling factors that often determine the impact of open data initiatives.
  • The Third Wave of Open Data Toolkit: The Third Wave of Open Data Toolkit offers a framework to think about open data and data re-use, one that starts from central questions about how data is created before expanding outward. It also offers eight primers showing how data stewards can operationalize the actions previously identified as being part of the third wave.

Responsible Data

When we talk about responsible data, we mean developing the processes needed to access and effectively use data in a way that mitigates dangers to data subjects, data users, and others, while preventing missed uses of the data for solving public problems. This line of work seeks to identify and mitigate risks, establish trust, and maximize the value of work so that public agencies, civil society organizations, large and small businesses, and others can achieve their goals in ways that do not contribute to the misuse (or missed use) of data.

While data responsibility is a core tenet of everything we do, we have several tools meant to help data practitioners proactively understand opportunities and risks, such as:

  • Data Responsibility Journey: The Data Responsibility Journey is an assessment tool that outlines the opportunities and risks to consider at each stage of the data lifecycle when implementing a data collaborative.
  • RD4C Data Ecosystem Mapping Tool: The RD4C Data Ecosystem Mapping Tool helps users identify and understand systems generating data about children to achieve insights around responsible data use, gaps and redundancies in the data, and more.
  • RD4C Decision Provenance Mapping: The RD4C Decision Provenance Mapping methodology provides a way for actors designing or assessing data investments for children to identify key decision points and stakeholders with the goal of improving strategies and advancing more professionally accountable data practices.
  • RD4C Opportunity and Risk Diagnostic: The RD4C Opportunity and Risk Diagnostic Tool provides organizations with a way to take stock of the RD4C principles and how they might be realized as an organization reviews a data project or system.
  • The Data Assembly Responsible Data Re-Use Framework: The Responsible Data Re-Use Framework synthesizes lessons learned from the New York City Data Assembly and presents a set of design principles to support responsible data handling policy and practice.

Participatory Approaches

Finally, we have several tools meant to facilitate better engagement with the public and the issues they find important. Whether through smarter crowdsourcing, a method that combines rigorous problem definition with crowdsourcing to attract diverse ideas from global experts and rapidly develop those ideas into actionable proposals, or people-led innovation, an approach to empower public entrepreneurs to unlock public expertise, we think it is critical to focus work on the public problems that urgently need addressed.

The below selected resources provide ways to do that, allowing city officials and others with ways to focus their work around the issues that matter most:

  • The 100 Questions Methodology: The 100 Questions Methodology is a smarter crowdsourcing approach that uses a set of “bilinguals,” experts in data science and a domain, to source questions that matter. The public then prioritizes these questions based on their individual concerns. It provides a way to create purposeful, impactful data collaboratives.
  • People-Led Innovation Worksheet: Designed for city officials, and others seeking ways to improve people’s lives, the People-Led Innovation Worksheet provides a methodology to develop stronger problem-solving processes to approach urban challenges.
  • The GovLab Academy Problem-Solving Canvas: The GovLab Public Problem Solving Canvas uses twenty questions to help you refine your understanding of the problem and those whom it affects; express your Big Idea; and turn that idea into an actionable strategy in the real world to the end of improving people’s lives.
  • R-Search Methodology: The R-Search approach is a useful way to gain a rapid understanding of issues, scholarship, actions and opinions surrounding a topic to allow for the design of responses that are more informed and targeted.

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This blog provides a brief curation of some of the tools that The GovLab has developed to help data practitioners address the issues they face every day. We hope by providing this listing we can encourage others to pursue a more responsible, deliberative approach to data (re)use, one that acknowledges the many issues that arise through the data lifecycle.

We invite you to view the resources above. Over the coming months, we will publish additional tools and resources that you can access at the Data Stewards Network and the Open Data Policy Lab. Sign up for updates here.

Data Stewards Network

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