Stay up-to-date with what we are doing

New Publication

Charting the Path: Reactions and Lessons from Building a Robust Community of Data Stewards

Posted on 11th of December 2023 by Sampriti Saxena, Adrienne Schmoeker

Charting the Path: Reactions and Lessons from Building a Robust Community of Data Stewards
Charting the Path: Reactions and Lessons from Building a Robust Community of Data Stewards

Since its launch in 2020, the Data Stewards Academy has provided courses on responsible data stewardship to data leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors across the world through its executive education course offerings. An initiative by The GovLab’s Open Data Policy Lab with support from Microsoft, the Data Stewards Academy seeks to advance the adoption of systematic, sustainable and responsible data sharing and stewardship practices to solve public challenges. 

This past year, we expanded our offerings to create new ways to engage with our course materials through on-demand programming and a limited workshop series. We also designed a unique thematic version of our executive education course focused on data re-use for cities to solve public problems.

In what follows, we share highlights of, and reactions to, some of our 2023 courses, including: 

You can learn more about the Data Stewards Academy by visiting our website. To receive updates on future Data Stewards Academy course offerings, be sure to subscribe to The GovLab’s weekly Data Stewards Newsletter here


Data Re-Use in Cities Course: Spring-Summer 2023

From April to July 2023, we welcomed eighteen city data leaders spread across sixteen countries for our Data Re-Use in Cities course–a unique iteration of our flagship Data Stewards Academy: Executive Education course, designed exclusively for data stewards working on tackling public challenges at the city-level.  

Over ten weeks, the group learned about new strategies for re-using data to solve public problems in cities. The cohort featured leaders in national and subnational government agencies, private sector data innovators, and senior practitioners and advocates from the civil sector, from organizations like Buro Happold, Nigeria Health Watch, Linked Data, Bern University of Applied Sciences and the Center for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies to name a few. 

Looking back on their time in the course, participants in the Data Re-Use in Cities cohort reflected on the applicability of the lessons in their different contexts, the strong sense of community they built, and the impact the course has already had on their work. Below, we share a selection of their reflections and takeaways: 

“I am honored to share my experience and journey through this transformative program. There wasn't a single moment during the course that was dull. Sitting virtually across a diverse community of passionate individuals dedicated to harnessing the power of data for the greater good and mentored by Stefaan, every session was a new learning experience. 

The weekly updates on what's happening in the world on data followed with the discussions was the most interesting part of the week. The curriculum was thoughtfully designed, striking the right balance between theoretical concepts and practical applications, and guest lectures on real time data use by organizations. 

The GovLab's commitment to fostering a collaborative and inclusive learning environment was truly commendable. Interacting with fellow cohort members from various backgrounds, cultures, and disciplines enriched my perspective and exposed me to new possibilities in data governance. The exchange of ideas and experiences was incredibly inspiring, and I formed valuable connections that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.”

– Tanya Gunjan, Officer of Sustainable Mobility at ICLEI (Germany)

“The Data Re-Use in Cities Course was a fantastic experience. The course materials were comprehensive, covering a wide spectrum of essential topics of Data Stewardship. 

We also learned about the Data Canvas, which gave us a detailed and well defined framework through which we can implement Data Re-Use Projects. The highlight of the course undoubtedly was the caliber of the guest speakers. Each of them brought a wealth of experience and expertise, combining theoretical knowledge with practical examples and real-world cases they were involved in. Another excellent aspect was the quality of my course mates. They are all highly knowledgeable and experienced in their own right and they were always incredibly engaged. 

Adrienne, Stefaan and Sampriti ran the course brilliantly. I would highly recommend the Course to anyone aspiring to excel in the field of Data Stewardship.”

– Sajid Mahmud, Head of Legal and Privacy Officer at Sensiv Laboratories (Bangladesh)

“The GovLab team is a group of enthusiastic and knowledgeable data steward experts who facilitate a welcoming and productive learning environment. The course engages with data professionals from a variety of industries who illustrate the breadth of data stewardship. Through engaging presentations, discussions and assignments, participants are encouraged to challenge themselves on developing an effective data strategy for their organization.”

– Madison Mackley, PhD Student at the University of Toronto (Canada) 

“This course was exactly what I needed and couldn't have come at a better  time. When I wanted to develop my skills on data management, this came up and proved to be the best online data management course by far and really fine-tuned my skills. It was very interactive, which provided a great learning and sharing platform amongst practitioners. The material used was very relevant and up to date. The course director was always flexible in his approach and allowed for questions, comments and inputs by everyone. The feedback provided was tailormade to address individual work which made learning desirable and easy.”

– Nyeleti Mahlaule, Chief Specialist in Knowledge Management for the City of Ekurhuleni Metro (South Africa)

"The Data Stewardship Academy is a reward for anyone passionate about using data for social good. The content, the guest speakers, and the classmates are all of excellent quality. There is no doubt that the team behind the academy is top-notch, and I also want to emphasize their human qualities. It has been a genuine pleasure to embark on this data journey with them.”

– Marisa Miodosky, Gender Equality Strategy Leader at the Buenos Aires City Statistics Bureau (Argentina)

“Joining the DSA was like being picked up by a lifeboat. It was wonderful to meet others from around the world facing similar challenges about operationalizing data collaboratives. The course content and guest speakers were state-of-the-art. I feel very lucky to have been a part of this special programme.”

– Marijana Novak, Data Lead for Circle Economy (the Netherlands)

“Participating in the Data Re-Use in Cities Executive Education Course was truly enlightening. I had the opportunity to engage with professionals from various countries and cultures, as well as learn from the experienced guest speakers and GovLab's team. Through peer learning, we exchanged valuable ideas and learned from each other's experiences, helping us develop effective data reuse strategies. It was a wonderful experience that expanded my understanding of data stewardship challenges.”

– Cleiton Diniz da Silva, Federal Auditor of Finance and Control at the Brazilian Office of the Comptroller General (Brazil) 

“Data strategies are at a nascent stage in developing countries like the Philippines. Thanks to the Data Stewards Academy: Data Re-Use in Cities Course, I have gained valuable insights on how to carefully plan and create collaboratives for successful data use. The course provided meaningful frameworks that can be applied to various data environments and objectives, unlocking the immense potential of leveraging data for solving societal problems. Data collaboratives involving public and private data sharing offer a huge potential for bridging gaps and driving human development. I hope this course reaches more data leaders from developing countries, empowering them to drive change one city at a time.”

– Daffodil L. Santillan, Data Associate at the Action for Economic Reforms (the Philippines) 

“The course brought together a wide range of actors eager to solve the same common problem: how can data stewardship support the promotion and development of cities? It was a life-changing opportunity and propelled my professional life forward to gain a greater understanding of my role in data governance.”

– Ana Carolina Benelli, Director of Linked Data (Brazil) 

“If anyone wants to broaden their knowledge of urban data issues and opportunities, the GovLab executive course is one I would highly recommend. The learning material is of high-quality standards and can be implemented and tested in various contexts.”

– Majaha Dlamnini, Urban Data Manager at the South African Cities Network (South Africa)

“This course has been an eye-opener for the potential of data re-use in a city context. The approach is very hands-on and deeply rooted in experience. The amount of tools and concepts is astonishing and a treasure trove for all those working in the larger field of data.”

– Jonas Bärtschi, Scientific Researcher at the Bern University of Applied Sciences (Switzerland)

“The Governance Lab's Executive Education Course for Data Re-use in Cities is an incredible, experiential journey led by Stefaan, Adrienne and Sampriti that has broadened and deepened my understanding and appreciation of the role of data stewards and data professionals in liberating data for good, ethically sound intentions involving public, private, and citizen partnership. The intersects of thought leadership, collaboration, research and industry of data re-use cases truly showcases where and how the magic happens to create new opportunities to build a better tomorrow.”

– Ernest Kwan, Head of the Data and Analytics Branch for the City of Winnipeg’s Water and Waste Department (Canada)


LinkedIn Learning: Global Data Stewardship

To help introduce a broader audience to the concept of data stewardship, the Data Stewards Academy worked closely with LinkedIn Learning to produce a taster lecture hosted by course lead, Stefaan Verhulst. 

In a little under two-hours, participants get a bird’s eye view of the process of building systematic, sustainable and responsible data collaboratives. The course emphasizes the skills and responsibilities needed in order to be an effective data steward, and directs learners towards a series of critical resources they can leverage to advance their data stewardship journey. At the time of writing this blog, the course has been completed by 2,932 learners from around the world.  

You can learn more about the course and take it yourself here


InnovateUS: Data Series


In the fall, Stefaan Verhulst and the Data Stewards Academy presented a three-part workshop series, titled “Unlocking Data: Identifying Needs and Collaborative Approaches”, centered around data and its re-use by public servants to tackle social challenges for InnovateUS. InnovateUS offers free online courses for public service professionals on “data, digital and innovation skills with an emphasis on evidence-based and equitable approaches.”

Over three hour-long sessions, Stefaan walked participants through the fundamentals of data and its re-use, beginning with an overview of the many different forms of data before going into the science of data questions and the strategic process of building lasting data collaboratives. Each session expanded on the critical role of data stewards in the data re-use process and highlighted a set of tools and resources to help facilitate effective and efficient data stewardship and data collaboratives. During the live sessions, Stefaan was joined by over 300 participants, and recordings of the sessions are now available on-demand as well.  

Read InnovateUS’s summary blog here to learn more about the series and access recordings of each workshop.  

Back to the Blog

Supported by