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Data Innovation Bootcamp: From Foundations of Data Innovation to Sustainability Planning in Six Weeks

Posted on 1st of December 2021 by Adrienne Schmoeker

Data Innovation Bootcamp: From Foundations of Data Innovation to Sustainability Planning in Six Weeks
Data Innovation Bootcamp: From Foundations of Data Innovation to Sustainability Planning in Six Weeks

A key objective of the Open Data Policy Lab involves  supporting  government data innovators and their work in cities around the world. Only by establishing a human infrastructure locally and globally can the return on investment toward an open data infrastructure be realized. Investing in responsible data innovators, and establishing transparency and public engagement as core principles of their work, are the foundation of our work at the Open Data Policy Lab’s City Incubatorannounced in September 2021. Having selected participants from ten cities,  we immediately began working with them to make their data innovations a reality. A core part of the program involves the Data Innovation Bootcamp, a packed six weeks of learning and training which we recently completed. Below we provide some more information on what the Bootcamp provided with the aim of subsequently making its content available for other data innovators in cities across the world


The Bootcamp, which was kicked off by an inspiring keynote by Open Data Charter’s Executive Director Natalia Carfi, is  designed around the four pillars of  the Third Wave of Open Data, which comprises: 

  1. Publishing with Purpose;

  2. Fostering Partnerships and Data Collaboration; 

  3. Advancing Open Data at the Subnational Level; 

  4. Prioritizing Data Responsibility and Data Rights. 

The Data Innovation Bootcamp sessions were then organized around the following framework: 

  • Theory: an overview of key concepts central to the session’s topic

  • Tools: resources to translate the concepts into practice

  • Try: a group exercise implementing the tools presented based on a case study 

  • Talk: a discussion reflecting on the session and applications to the cohort’s data innovations

Inaugural City Incubator Data Innovation Bootcamp Sessions

Seeking to represent a diversity of perspectives and experiences, we brought together nearly twenty different guest faculty to present on best practices across all six sessions of the Bootcamp: 

Week 1: Foundations of data innovation

In this introductory session, we focus on ensuring that data innovations do not fall into the trap of techno-solutionism but are focused on driving value and impact through the support of clear problem definition and an understanding of how data contributes to decision-making and value creation. We share with participants tools on how to develop a Theory of Change, and agile methodologies to help support a user-centered focus to the data innovation throughout its lifecycle. 


Week 2: Responsible and inclusive data innovation

Critical in all data work is remembering that no source of information is perfect, and that no data tool/resource built from this imperfect data is perfect either. It is imperative that the gaps and risks in one’s data and data innovation development process are understood. The City of San Jose’s Data Equity Team shares their Data Equity Framework and an example of how it is used in their data innovation work. 


Week 3: Planning best practices

We turn our focus on how to effectively plan for a data innovation, keeping in mind the agile nature of this work. Planning involves understanding how to get internal stakeholders on board, how to translate transparency principles into action, and potential creative forms of resourcing. City Incubator Partner Mastercard City Insights shares a suite of free tools and resources to support the City Incubator’s innovators. 


Week 4: Strategic positioning 

An important component of launching any new initiative is working to obtain buy-in from a variety of different stakeholders with different incentives. Data innovations are no exceptions to this, yet neither public policy courses nor data courses focus on strategic communications and relationship building. Covered concepts include frameworks and tactics for engaging different audiences, internal and external to your organization. 


Week 5: Launch strategy

Even with a perfect action plan, approval from the various approval-holding stakeholders, and resources in place, a data innovation can fall flat without a strategy for launch. How you prepare and announce your data innovation, makes a difference. As it is commonly said, you only have one opportunity to make a first impression! This session provides a continued emphasis on staying user-centric while providing a checklist and other resources for mapping out a communications and messaging strategy. 


Week 6: Sustainability planning 

While a data innovation may employ quick and temporary tactics (such as a pilot) to demonstrate demand and a need, long-term impact is generated by long-lasting implementation. As a data innovation is in development and preparing to launch, what is needed for long-term sustainability must be considered. Speakers address how to foster culture change in your organization and cover resources for long-term sustainability planning. 


We’re excited to share the recordings of these sessions on the City Incubator website in the coming weeks -- stay tuned and sign up for the Data Stewards Network listserv to be notified when they’re made available.

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