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Data Stewards Academy

Why Data Stewardship? Reflections from Expert Participants in the Data Stewards Academy Executive Education Course

Posted on 29th of November 2021 by Sampriti Saxena

In 2020, The GovLab’s Open Data Policy Lab, in partnership with Microsoft, launched an executive education course, Developing a Data Reuse Strategy for Solving Public Problems, as a part of the Data Stewards Academy. Led by The GovLab’s Stefaan G. Verhulst and Andrew Young, the course trains responsible data leaders across sectors to initiate systematic, sustainable, and responsible re-use of data to create public value and solve public problems. Over the summer of 2021, we welcomed our second cohort of data stewards to the course. 

The course starts with an ambitious proposal, to rethink the data stewardship role and succeeds at this goal because of its professors, classes, speakers and guests.

Over eight weeks, from July to September, twenty data leaders from eleven countries across the Western Hemisphere joined in rethinking data stewardship and learning about new strategies for re-using data to solve public problems. The cohort featured leaders in national and subnational government statistical agencies, private sector decision-makers in telecommunications and finance firms, and senior practitioners working to achieve health, justice, and humanitarian objectives in the public and civil sectors. The next cohort will be hosted in early 2022 and will welcome learners based in the Eastern Hemisphere. 

In this piece, we share a selection of reflections and takeaways from participants in the second cohort of Data Stewards Academy learners. 

Regimagining Data Stewardship

Participants found the course to be a valuable resource in understanding concepts and approaches that can advance a reimagined concept of data stewardship that prioritizes the creation of institutional and societal value. Karen Hampton, a program manager from the All Payer All Claims Reporting Program of the Oregon Health Authority, called the course a “wonderful resource for any organization considering creating, expanding or refining data use strategies and processes. Every presentation, reading and discussion added depth and breadth to data stewardship. The course combines methodology and application for an immediate ‘return on investment’ at all stages of data use strategy and implementation.”

Similarly, Manuel Zapico, the data coordinator for the Government of the City of Buenos Aires noted that the course “starts with an ambitious proposal, to rethink the data stewardship role and succeeds at this goal because of its professors, classes, speakers and guests.” 

A vibrant digital agora that offers valuable insights.

Peer Engagement and Learning

Several participants noted their appreciation for the expertise and diversity of the guest faculty and their peers. Sergio Carrera Riva Palacio at the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in Mexico noted that “studying and reflecting always favors opportunities to grow and when you do it with the guidance of such expert people and walk side by side with colleagues who are experiencing similar challenges, what is generated is a vibrant digital agora that offers valuable insights.”  Manuel Zapico agreed, calling the course a “unique opportunity to debate with peers about the current—and future—challenges that we face working with data.”

Eduardo Bejar, Executive Director of Fundapi, also found value in his new connections to expert guest faculty and peers, noting that the course “offered me the opportunity to learn about experiences and real use cases, listening to the people who carry them out in different countries. It was also an opportunity to expand my network of professional contacts with the possibility of exploring future collaborations.”

Putting Data Stewardship into Practice

Many participants were especially appreciative of the course’s action-oriented character and prioritization of tools, methodologies, and strategies that could be applied in learners’ organizations. For example, Jorge Alvarado, chief technology officer at Swisscom, shared that “with the Data Stewards Executive Program, I was able to bootstrap our data-sharing project into a more cohesive, real-world solution to tackle collaboration among organizations.” 

The course combines methodology and application for an immediate ‘return on investment’ at all stages of data use strategy and implementation.”

This focus on putting lessons into practice will continue. While the second cohort of the executive education course on developing a reuse strategy has come to a close, the participants have now joined the growing Data Stewards Academy Alumni Network, a forum for data stewards to share knowledge and explore collaboration after the initial eight-week program. Karen Hampton indicated that she is “looking forward to continued contact with the program leads and peers for continued growth of my project and my skills.”   


COMING SOON: Applications for the third cohort of the Data Stewards Academy executive education course soon will be opened to responsible data leaders based in the Eastern Hemisphere who are seeking ways to build their data stewardship skills and capacity. We encourage you to apply and join a growing community of responsible data working to create public value. As Eric Sutherland, Executive Director of the Health Data & Information Governance Strategy at the Canadian Institute for Healthy Information, puts it, “the hardest part is culture change and more common voices will help move the millstone.”

You can learn more about the course by visiting our course site. We have also adapted the executive education course into an openly accessible self-directed learning program available here. To receive updates on future Data Stewards Academy course offerings, please subscribe to The GovLab’s weekly Data Stewards Newsletter here

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