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City Incubator Mentor Council

How to Accelerate the Third Wave of Open Data in 2022

Posted on 10th of January 2022 by Adrienne Schmoeker, Andrew Zahuranec

How to Accelerate the Third Wave of Open Data in 2022
How to Accelerate the Third Wave of Open Data in 2022

In the three months since the Open Data Policy Lab announced the ten participating cities in its City Incubator program, we have worked to help the participants grow as intrapreneurs; develop and scale their city data projects. In addition to offering the participants opportunities to exchange knowledge and participate in tailored trainings, we have also connected participants to our Council of Mentors—a global community of experts with specific knowledge and skills to help provide one-on-one guidance throughout the program (see below for full list). 

On Wednesday, 1 December, the City Incubator program held a first Mentor Networking and Discussion Hour. The event gave mentors the opportunity to meet one another, develop ideas to support the City Incubator participants, and discuss challenges facing cities in pursuing the Third Wave of Open Data, a framework developed in consultation with numerous open data leaders worldwide that  comprises a set of actions and priorities to enable impactful and responsible re-use of data to tackle societal challenges and to provide for equity and opportunity, especially through inter-sectoral collaborations and partnerships. The Third Wave seeks to build upon the existing foundation of open data. It emphasizes publishing with purpose (understanding the demand side of open data); initiating data collaboratives (to open both private and public sector data) and prioritizing data rights and responsibility.

Moverover, the Third Wave of Open Data emphasizes the untapped potential of open data at subnational levels of government—a key reason behind the Open Data Policy Lab’s investment in the City Incubator program and reason for gathering our Council of Mentors around this topic. 

Over the course of an hour, the mentors had a variety of conversations about new models of data access, progress that had been made at the subnational level in promoting data openness and data responsibility. 

The main takeaways from these conversations were that resources should be devoted to: 

1. Understanding the Use Case: First, there was substantial discussion about the importance of understanding the problem and the context surrounding it. Consistent with the Third Wave’s emphasis on “publishing with purpose,” participants discussed how a clear and well-defined focus for open data initiatives was necessary to ensure that the work produced meaningful improvements in line with local needs and that resources were used effectively. Some participants argued that defining a clear case was dependent on “getting one’s house together first,” by securing internal buy-in and working with stakeholders to come to a consensus on specific needs. Others emphasized the need to be clear on when not to build and operate with minimal viable data and need to focus open data resources on investing in solutions that empower communities with transparency and accountability frameworks. 

2. Setting up Governance: A second theme in the mentor discussion was the importance of governance and policy to provide a structure to engagements and data-sharing ventures. Several participants discussed how there was an “uphill battle” in developing new models for collaboration due to a lack of space to develop them in. The intention was there but the infrastructure was not. Others noted achievements by cities around the world in working with private sector stakeholders, enabled broadly by clear governance structures. 

3. Recognizing Different “Speeds”: Finally, the mentors spoke about the need to recognize that different areas are at different parts in the open data journey. Some cities are in the third wave and working with non-government stakeholders to set up data collaborative partnerships. Others are just getting started on the first wave by setting up the most basic mechanisms to publish data upon request. Several experts recommended that areas think about their challenges on a regional basis to develop supportive, localized networks of support and address issues specific to their area. Others spoke about the value of publishing evidence to get models of collaboration “out the door” for others to follow.

4. Multi-level governmental collaboration: Participants shared stories and examples of open data efforts—namely standardization—happening at multiple levels of government. At the federal, regional, and municipal level, open data advocates were exploring ways to work together to promote standards. Participants asked themselves how they should and could use these various levels of government collaborate to reach the Third Wave of Open Data.


We’d like to thank the City Incubator mentors for these reflections, questions and suggestions to help advance the Third Wave of Open Data, especially at the subnational level and look forward to further exploration with the City Incubator community.

We encourage you to follow along with our work by visiting our website or signing up for updates for all our projects here.

Our Council of Mentors includes: 

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