What Happened at The OGP Summit Unconference: Making Data Work for Open Government

The Unconference, which took place just before the OGP Summit in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 29th, 2019, provided a unique opportunity for Open Government Advocates and Practitioners to explore a range of issues related Data Literacy. Hundreds of Open Government Partnership (OGP) commitments involve the creation, publication or use of data. Open governments need to be data literate at all functioning levels, and they need to be held to account by an engaged and data-literate citizenry. Participant-driven discussions took place about how to build data literacy, skills, and capacity in ways that support the development and implementation of open government commitments.

Dirk Slater, Data Literacy Consortium Co-Chair, acted as lead facilitator and organiser of the Unconference. The Unconference organising team also included Tim Davies, Nati Carfi, Steve Walker, Fernando Perini and Katie Clancy.

What happened

The day started with an opening circle, with close to the ‘at-capacity’ number of 130 individuals present, providing an overview of the plan of the day along with some suggested guidelines. We then asked participants to break into pairs (find someone you don’t know) and go for a 20-minute walk around the Shaw Centre, answering the questions: ‘Why do you do the work you do?’ and ‘What are your current data literacy priorities and challenges?’. 

Upon their return, we undertook a ‘world cafe’ format plenary with ten stations set up around the room, with around 10-12 chairs each, hosted by:

Each host provided 3 minutes of background on their topic and then allowed seven minutes of question and answers. Every 10 minutes, participants were invited to move to a new station. We rotated four times.

From the world cafe, we invited participants to break into groups of three to four to talk about what topics/issues they wanted to cover during the day. They captured ideas on post-it notes and then spent a few minutes clustering and organising the topics to create a raft of sessions.  From there we asked for volunteers to run the first slate of sessions. They were: 

  • Teaching Technical Aspects
  • Open Privacy – Danger for Data Collectors
  • Data Literacy – Identifying Tools, training and resources
  • Data Literacy – Defining the data lifecycle, building a narrative from data
  • Movement Building 
  • Addressing Cultural Issues in data projects.
  • Data Standards
  • Measuring Data Literacy
  • Merging Data Systems
  • Co-Designing Data Strategies with Communities

And then we had lunch, or we tried to have lunch. The Shaw Centre was sadly a bit short of food.

After lunch, we held a skill share – this is an informal one on one knowledge exchange and wasn’t limited to data literacy. Participants filled out sheets of paper that said ‘How to…’ and ranged from ‘Tailgating 101′ to ‘How to draw a horse’ to ‘How to pitch open government to an elected official’. After each participant shared their skills, people broke into pairs and groups of three to teach each other things in 45 minutes. 

After the skill share, we then had a second set of participant-driven sessions. They were:

  • AI & Open Data
  • Anti-Corruption and Open Data
  • Building Training Networks of Practice
  • Scaling Data Literacy
  • Movement Building Part II

We concluded the Unconference with a closing circle to get the participants to share what they would be carrying forward, they included:

  • Developing a course on Data Literacy
  • Work with CSO’s to increase knowledge on Open Data
  • Work with others to improve our data literacy capacity building.
  • Leverage working group knowledge by remaining connected
  • Bring the message back to the gov & CSO’s on how to;
    • Build data literacy in the gov
    • Prioritise gov data that should go open first
  • Create an open data movement within my organisation
  • Continue to be an agent of change towards a more open government.
  • Connect other Data Literacy efforts with our organisation (WRI) 
  • Be a part of departmental culture change by championing open data
  • Draft and publish an open data oath for open governments
  • Think about small scale, high impact, proof of concept project to demonstrate how open data can support my organisational mandate
  • Keep using linked data
  • Be a part of departmental culture change championing open data
  • Open Data Risk Assessment guide
  • Keep on participating in open data unconferences and connect with all the people I exchanged cards with
  • Start a people library
  • Deliver message to OGP on Open Data Begins with Data Literacy
  • Storytelling as a way to embody value! Accessibility sharing ownership with all stakeholders
  • Using education tools MOC, Haiti project with FTP
  • Follow-up with Noel, Menzo, Maria, Juan
  • Work measuring date literacy and other initiatives
  • AI 4 Diff steps on the Open Data Journey.
  • FInd tools for data and AI Literacy and incorporate info re requirement gathering for planning and executing projects 
  • Help journalists understand data and make stories out of data
  • Help other intermediaries/animators connect data with their day to day lives
  • Help the youth connect with data
  • Write stories
  • Demystifying the fear of data and information sharing within govt agencies
  • Start the conversation about data literacy with national MET offices and disaster management agencies in the context of crowdsourced IoT
  • Personalised Training – 
    • Training for trainers
    • Content
    • Comparisons to others with similar backgrounds
  • Make and look for stories and share them
  • Building “People” resource Libraries, OGP Kenya & Next year report
  • Invite to MM
  • Mix, create and share and get tools and connect people – Assessment
  • Take a closer look at the linkage of AI and Open Data
  • Take a closer look at the linked data approach and check the changes of using it to improve data access
  • Bring OG message to university people and CS groups in my home time and to national organisations that work with water issues in Mexico,

Key takeaways from facilitating/organising the Unconference:

  • Data literacy remains a topic that will bring a diverse group of people together. Likely due to its necessity for effective organisations, institutions, governments and society. 
  • Intentional space for peer-driven discussion and knowledge exchange in the Open Government and Open Data sectors is in high demand. Participants were enthusiastic and committed to utilising the time together.
  • Selling out and starting a waiting list helped in getting registrants to commit to attending as we could ask ‘if you aren’t coming for the full day, can we give your space to someone who can?’
  • The ‘People Library’ concept that emerged during the Unconference is a frame for networks of practice and possible future events.

Recommendations for future Unconferences.

  • Ask participants to commit to the full day in the registration process; don’t wait to sell out (space is limited will still work). 
  • Out Reach: Send periodic updates on what to expect to registrants in the run-up to the Unconference and follow-up updates on outcomes.
  • Secure event space with natural light and can reliably provide lunch. 
  • Empower and enable participants to advocate on themes and topics that emerge post-Unconference.
  • Consider adding a second ‘sprint’ day to allow participants to work together on specifics that emerged on the first day.   
  • Be prepared to support continued discussion, projects and potential networks of practice derived from themes and topics that emerge during the unconference.

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