[Summary: new role focussing on participatory data governance, and starting to write weeknotes]
Last week I started a new role as Research Director for Connected by data, a new non-profit established by Jeni Tennison to focus on shifting narratives and practice around data governance. It’s a dream job for me, not least for the opportunity to work with Jeni, but also because it brings together two strands that have been woven throughout my work, but that I’ve rarely been able to bring together so clearly: governance of technology and participatory practice.
You can find the Connected by data strategic vision and roadmap here describing our mission to “put community at the centre of data narratives, practices and policies”, and our goals to work on challenging individual frameworks of data ownership, whilst showing how collective models offer a clearer way forward. We’ll also be developing practical guidance that helps organisations to adopt collective and participatory decision making practice, and a key focus for the first few weeks of my work is on building a library of potential case studies to learn from in identifying what works in the design of more participatory data governance.
Jeni’s organisational designs for Connected by data include a strong commitment to working in the open, and one of the practices we’re going to be exploring is having all team members produce public ‘weeknotes’ summarising activities, and most importantly, learning from the week. You can find the full of weeknotes over here, but in the interests of trying to capture my learning here too (and inviting any feedback from anyone still following this blog), I’ll try and remember to cross-post here too.
Last week’s weeknotes (6th May)
Hello! It’s the end of my first week as Research Director (and with the May day holiday in the UK, it’s been a short week too). I’ve been getting stuck into the research strand of the roadmap, as well as checking off some of the more logistical tasks like getting different calendars to talk to each other (calmcalendar to the rescue), posting my Bio on the website here, and setting up new systems. On that note, thanks to Jeni for the tip on logseq which seems to be working really nicely for me so far as both a knowledge-base, and a journal for keeping track of what’s happened each week to make writing up weeknotes easier.
The week has been bookended by scoping out how we’ll develop case studies of where organisations have adopted participatory approaches in data governance. I’ve started an AirTable dataset of potential case leads, and have been looking at if/how we could align some of our data collection with the data model used by Participedia (an open wiki of participation cases and methods). Over the next few weeks I’m anticipating an iterative process of working out the questions we need to ask about each case, and the kinds of classifications of cases we want to apply.
The middle of the week was focussed on responding to a new publication from the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data’s Data Values Project: a white paper on Reimagining Data and Power. The paper adopts a focus on collective engagement with data, and on participatory approaches to data design, collection, governance and use, very much aligned with the Connected by data agenda. Not only was the paper a source of a number of potential case study examples, but it also prompted a number of useful questions I’m hoping to explore more in coming weeks around the importance/role of data literacy in participatory data governance, and the interaction of what the paper terms ‘informal’ participatory models, with formal models of regulation and governance. Some of those thoughts are captured in this twitter thread about the report, and this draft response to the Data Values Project consultation call for feedback.
I also spent some time reviewing Jeni’s paper on ‘What food regulation teaches us about data governance’, and reflecting in particular on how the food analogy works in the context of international trade, and cross-border flows.
Finally, I’ve been helping the Global Data Barometer team put some finishing touches to the first edition report which will (finally!) launch next week. Although I handed over the reigns on the Global Data Barometer project to Silvana Fumega in the middle of last year, I’ve been back working on the final report since December: both on the data analysis and writing, and, trying (not always successfully) to have a reproducible workflow from data to report. Data governance is one of the key pillars of the report: although in the first edition there is relatively little said about _participatory _approaches, at least on the data creation and governance side. I’ll aim to write a bit more about that next week, and to explore whether there are missing global metrics that might help us understand how far a more collective approach to data is adopted or enacted around the world.