Stay up-to-date with what we are doing

New Publication

GovLab Summer Readings: A Review of Major Publications from 2023

A collection of some major resources from The GovLab to keep you occupied during these summer months.

Posted on 18th of July 2023 by The Govlab

GovLab Summer Readings: A Review of Major Publications from 2023
GovLab Summer Readings: A Review of Major Publications from 2023

It’s July once again, and, many people, in the Northern Hemisphere, are seeking a break from the daily grind and seeking for readings to stay up to date and refresh their knowledge.  

In this blog post, we hope to provide those taking vacation with a collection of some of our most recent literature—which covers COVID-19, artificial intelligence, open data, and innovation. 

Those seeking more can find additional content of potential interest in the Living Library.

Papers and Reports

The Data4COVID19 Review: Assessing the Use of Non-Traditional Data During  a Pandemic Crisis by Hannah Chafetz, Andrew J. Zahuranec, Sara Marcucci, Behruz Davletov, and Stefaan Verhulst

With support from the Knight Foundation, The GovLab’s Hannah Chafetz, Andrew J. Zahuranec, Sara Marcucci, Behruz Davletov, and Stefaan Verhulst conducted year-long research on “if and how non-traditional data was used during the different waves of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide guidance for how future data systems may be more effectively employed in future dynamic crises.” 

Make sure to check out the full report and the two primers on “What is Non-Traditional Data?” and “Lessons from COVID-19.”

Data Collaborative Case Study: NYC Recovery Data Partnership by Andrew J. Zahuranec 

In March, the Open Data Policy Lab published a new report exploring an innovative approach to data collaboration: The New York Recovery Data Partnership. Launched amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the initiative gave city agencies access to non-traditional data— data that is digitally captured, mediated or observed using new instrumentation mechanisms, often privately held and used for purposes unrelated to its initial collection — to respond to the crisis. The case study examines how cities can establish trusted intermediaries to facilitate innovative research and policymaking.

AI Localism in Practice: Examining How Cities Govern AI by Sara Marcucci, Uma Kalkar, and Stefaan Verhulst

The rapid growth of cities and advances in data has led to the growing adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and other automated systems in cities across the world. In fact, research shows that cities and states are leading the charge in developing governance frameworks and implementing policies at a quicker, more direct, and more impactful level than their national counterparts because of the “immediacy and proximity” of policy needs and responses. Yet the expanded use of AI by municipalities raises new questions about what constitutes appropriate and ethical use of the technology and their governance models.

This report aims to serve as a primer for policymakers and practitioners to learn about current governance practices and inspire their own work in the field. In this report, we present the fundamentals of AI governance, the value proposition of such initiatives, and their application in cities worldwide to identify themes among city- and state-led governance actions. We close with ten lessons on AI Localism for policymakers, data, AI experts, and the informed public to keep in mind as cities grow increasingly "smarter."

Mapping and Comparing Data Governance Frameworks: A benchmarking exercise to inform global data governance deliberations by Sara Marcucci, Natalia Gonzalez Alarcon, Stefaan G. Verhulst, and Elena Wullhorst

Earlier this year, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination endorsed “International Data Governance – Pathways to Progress”, a paper developed through the High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) Working Group on International Data Governance. The document “articulates a vision for the governance of data at the international level and its annexes can serve as an analytical resource to support Member States’ efforts.”

To inform HCLP, The GovLab developed a paper on “Mapping and Comparing Data Governance Frameworks — A benchmarking exercise to inform global data governance deliberations.” (Sara Marcucci, Natalia González Alarcón, Stefaan G. Verhulst, and Elena Wüllhorst) which was also released simultaneously. As the title suggests, this annex compares patterns in the data governance ecosystem as a means of highlighting the need for a more holistic, coordinated, transnational approach to data governance to manage the global flow of data in the public interest. It makes several recommendations to data practitioners, including embracing data stewardship, focusing on responsible re-use, harmonizing terms, and developing broad frameworks to anchor work.

Tools and Training

How to Master the Practice of Defining Problems: Problem Definition Tool by Andrew J. Zahuranec, Stefaan Verhulst, and Andrew Young

What does it take to address a public problem leveraging data? The first step is defining what the problem is. Yesterday, The Open Data Policy Lab released its latest resource to help data practitioners better define their problems: “How to Master the Practice of Defining Problems: Problem Definition Tool.”

Derived from a model developed through years of practice, this tool guides practitioners through different stages to ensure that the work they conduct is as actionable as possible. It offers guidance, brainstorming exercises, and supplementary resources. Individuals can use the tool to document a problem; clarify it; map the topic area; articulate a problem question, and develop a theory of change. 

The State of Open Data Policy Repository

 In January, the Open Data Policy Lab launched the State of Open Data Policy Repository, a collection of recent policy developments surrounding open data, data reuse, and data collaboration around the world. 

A refinement of compilation of policies launched at the Open Data Policy Summit last year, the State of Open Data Policy Online Repository is an interactive resource that looks at recent legislation, directives, and proposals that affect open data and data collaboration all around the world. It captures what kinds of data collaboration issues policy makers are currently focused on and where the momentum for data innovation is heading in countries around the world. Users can filter policies according to region, country, focus and type of data sharing. The review currently has roughly 60 entries.

The 9Rs Framework: A Worksheet for Establishing the Business Case for Data Collaboration and Re-Using Data in the Public Interest by Lisa Talia Moretti, Andrew J. Zahuranec, and Stefaan Verhulst

Understanding that institutions need a strong business case for opening their datasets, the 9Rs Framework provides a tool to help organizations understand and articulate the benefits that data collaboration can bring. Drawing on research and interviews with experts across sectors, the team has developed an evidence-based model for identifying why an organization might open its data and the benefits it can yield, whether that be in producing Knowledge and Insights, Improving Brand Equity, or Establishing a License to Operate. 

LinkedIn Learning: Global Data Stewardship by Stefaan Verhulst

On 4 May 2023, LinkedIn Learning released a course produced by The GovLab’s Stefaan Verhulst titled “Global Data Stewardship.” Through several modules that include short video lectures, chapter quizzes, and recommended readings, students can learn all the essential elements for serving as a data steward and managing data reuse initiatives. They can also get tips on designing and implementing the data collaboration models, governance frameworks, and infrastructure needed to exchange data responsibly, sustainably, and effectively.

Event Summaries:

Unleashing the Potential of Digital Self-Determination by Natalia González Alarcón and Stefaan Verhulst

The blog summarizes a panel discussion that took place on June 20th as part of the International Network on Digital Self-Determination at OGR Torino, an innovation and art hub in Turin, Italy. The panelists examined the digital self-determination principle, emphasizing its ability to empower individuals, communities, and entities, foster transparency and accountability, promote digital inclusion, and address ethical concerns surrounding emerging technologies. The conversation explored various use cases where the principle of digital self-determination enables individuals and communities to navigate the complex digital landscape while safeguarding their agency and protecting their fundamental rights. The blog explores practical approaches for implementing this concept.

Destination? Care Blocks! by Natalia González Alarcón, Hannah Chafetz, Diana Rodríguez Franco, Uma Kalkar, Bapu Vaitla, and Stefaan Verhulst

“Destination? Care Blocks!” summarizes the proceedings of two recent studio workshops focused on creating a new data collaborative that addresses mobility-related issues affecting the use of Care Blocks in the City of Bogotá. The discussion yielded several critical questions on how the journey to Care Blocks is experienced; what the different modes of transportation used to reach Care Blocks are; how different Care Blocks are experienced; and what the relationship between access to mobility and access to services is. 

An Action Plan Towards a “New Deal on Data” in Africa by Andrew Zahuranec, Stefaan Verhulst, Sampriti Saxena, Adrienne Schmoeker, Hannah Chafetz, Charlie Martial Ngounou

This blog provides the summary of an action plan, developed in coordination with AfroLeadership and over 30 leaders from across Africa, to advance open data and data collaboration in Africa through policy. Though the partners discussed many issues, individuals honed in on four key takeaways, including developing a “New Deal” Observatory to take stock of current policies; developing a community-led platform to advance data stewardship across communities; fostering “New Deal” investments to support locally sourced solutions; and drafting a responsible data stewardship framework.

Moving towards a “New Deal on Data” for Africa by Hannah Chafetz, Andrew Zahuranec, Stefaan Verhulst, Sampriti Saxena, Adrienne Schmoeker, Charlie Martial Ngounou

In May, Hannah Chafetz, Andrew Zahuranec, Stefaan Verhulst, Sampriti Saxena, Adrienne Schmoeker, and Charlie Martial Ngounou provided a summary  of the first of two Open Data Action Labs on advancing open data and data collaboration across Africa. The summary relates the event’s discussions on the state of play in terms of policies, frameworks, and strategies and then describes participants’ recommendations to increase supply, better cultivate demand, align incentives, accelerate implementation, and advance coordination.

Toward a Fourth Wave of Open Data? by Stefaan G. Verhulst, Andrew J. Zahuranec, Sampriti Saxena, Adrienne Schmoeker, and Hannah Chafetz

In June, we published “Toward a Fourth Wave of Open Data,” which summarizes the outcomes of a panel conversation between Stefaan Verhulst (The GovLab), Oliver Wise (US Department of Commerce), Holly Krambeck (World Bank DataLab), Hubert Beroche (Urban AI), and Sonia Cooper (Microsoft). 

The conversation provided several insights about the value of generative AI for open data. Oliver Wise, for example, noted how generative AI could make open data more accessible and democratize insights, but that using it on incomplete or low quality datasets could produce misinformation. Holly Krambeck similarly noted how generative AI tools could be used to bridge the skill gap between coders and non-coders while Hubert Beroche focused on how AI tools to help cities. Sonia Cooper, finally, described how Microsoft was examining how generative AI could make it easier to discover, process, and analyze data.

Highlights from Panel on Civic Trust for NYC Open Data Week by Andrew J. Zahuranec

This piece summarizes several major points from a panel hosted by The GovLab, Center for Urban Science + Progress, and NYC Civic Engagement Commission on the ways that civic trust can be used to both measure and facilitate civic trust.

The piece includes remarks from the various panelists, including Stefaan Verhulst (The GovLab), Elena Krumova (Columbia University), Maia Woluchem (Surveillance Resistance Labs), Alli Finn (Surveillance Resistance Labs), Oscar Romero (NYC Civic Engagement Commission), and Betsy MacLean (NYC Chief Engagement Officer). They describe their own views on what civic trust is, ways to meaningfully engage people, and the value that open data can provide to society. 

An agenda for advancing trusted data collaboration in cities by Hannah Chafetz

In March, The GovLab’s Hannah Chafetz, Sampriti Saxena, Adrienne Schmoeker, Stefaan G. Verhulst, and Andrew J. Zahuranec published a blog summarizing key takeaways from its Open Data Action Lab on accelerating data collaborations in cities. 

“An agenda for advancing trusted data collaboration in cities” describes several pathways emerging from an action lab on data-sharing agreements that The Open Data Policy Lab and TrustRelay might pursue, including developing Elements of Principled Negotiation, Data Responsibility Principles by Design, a readiness matrix for data collaboration, a decision provenance approach for data collaboration a revision to the Contractual Wheel of Data Collaboration, and a repository of legal drafting technologies.

Open Data Action Lab: Data Sharing Agreements for Smart Cities by Hannah Chafetz

In February, Hannah Chafetz summarized the results of the Open Data Policy Lab’s first Open Data Action Lab on accelerating data collaborations in cities by removing obstacles to data-sharing agreements. It describes how the event fed into a topic map and articulates key takeaways on the need for guidance on how negotiations should take place, the need for clearer incentives, the need for additional governance tools to define context, and the need for stakeholder management processes.

Diverse Approaches to Applying Ethics to AI by Sampriti Saxena

In March, Sampriti Saxena summarized recent conversations happening through the AI Ethics: Global Perspectives course. The blog details discussions between Amana Raquib (Institute of Business Administration Karachi), Marta Galceran (Barcelona Centre for International Affairs), Viviana Polisena (Catholic University of Cordoba), and Yip Fai Tse (Princeton University). Their conversation touched on virtues-based approaches to ethical technologies; the challenges and opportunities of urban ethical AI; and the intersection of humans, nature, and technology.

Accelerating Valuable, Accessible, & Responsible Data by Natalia González Alarcón, Uma Kalkar, Stefaan Verhulst

In January, Natalia González Alarcón, Uma Kalkar and Stefaan Verhulst published their takeaways from conversations with the Innovation for Citizens Services division of the Inter-American Development Bank and a coalition of multisectoral experts. Summarizing the results of two panels, one from a public sector perspective, and one with a private sector outlook, it reveals the participants' attitudes toward government data flows, the ways regulatory frameworks can enable use and innovation of data, the ways leadership is essential to sustaining data strategies, and more. The blog was also published in Spanish.

Blogs and Articles

Congrats to the Next Generation of Data Stewards who completed the Data Re-use in Cities Course!

This blog celebrates the participants in the Open Data Policy Lab’s latest Executive Education course. Over the past eight weeks, city data leaders from around the world have learned about the theories and tools they need to develop a responsible, sustainable, and systematic data re-use strategy. It describes how participants were able to explore ways to establish data collaboratives that could improve their cities and identify new ways to institutionalize data stewardship. It notes that all participating leaders have the opportunity to present what they’ve learned at a showcase event.

An Introduction to the Responsible Data for Children Principles by Andrew J. Zahuranec

This blog notes the complexity of the children’s data ecosystem and the urgent need for additional guidance for how organizations can be responsible with children’s data. To address this gap,  RD4C will spend the next few week publishing short blogs describing each of the RD4C principles and how they can be realized. These pieces will include a real-world example and provide readers with a tool or resource they can use to pursue the principle in their own work.

Why Responsible Data for Children Is Different from Other Data Governance Approaches by Andrew J. Zahuranec, Stefaan Verhulst, Eugenia Olliaro, Friederike Schuur

The piece describes the overall value proposition of the Responsible Data for Children initiative and the unique opportunities it presents to collaborators. It describes the ways in which organizations who have adopted the RD4C approach see it as being principled yet flexible; accountability-focused; approachable; educational; and aspirational.

Actualizing Digital Self Determination: From Theory to Practice by Stefaan Verhulst

On Medium, The GovLab’s Stefaan Verhulst published a blog titled, “Actualizing Digital Self Determination: From Theory to Practice.” The blog describes how datafication has introduced imbalances, agency asymmetries, and silos that limit the potential of data. He then describes how these issues can be addressed by operationalizing digital self-determination and describes four major themes of a recent paper he wrote on the topic, including emphasizing the value of open data and data collaboration; understanding the limitations of informed consent; articulating a new principle of self-determination; and translating theoretical concepts into practice.

Modernizing philanthropy for the 21st century by Stefaan G. Verhulst, Lisa T. Moretti, Hannah Chafetz and Alex Fischer

In Alliance Magazine, Stefaan G. Verhulst, Lisa T. Moretti, Hannah Chafetz and Alex Fischer wrote a piece titled, “Modernizing philanthropy for the 21st century.” The article asks how philanthropies can “ move in a more deliberate yet responsible manner toward using data to advance their goals.” It provides an overview of existing and potential qualitative and quantitative data innovations within the philanthropy sector and examines four specific areas where additional innovation is needed, including:

    • Innovation in identifying shared questions and overlapping priorities;
    • Innovation in improving coordination and transparency across sectors;
    • Innovation in financing to reduce reliance on fixed-project-based funding; and
    • Innovation in impact assessment and accountability to help philanthropies.

The team acknowledges that data alone cannot address these shortcomings and that true innovation needs a variety of human, institutional, and cultural changes. It subsequently arrives at eight pathways for data-driven innovations in philanthropy. This effort is part of The GovLab’s work with the Paul Ramsay Foundation. 

Wanted: Data Stewards — Drafting the Job Specs for A Re-imagined Data Stewardship Role by Stefaan Verhulst

In March, Stefaan Verhulst published a new piece on the Data Stewards Network site titled, “Wanted: Data Stewards — Drafting the Job Specs for A Re-imagined Data Stewardship Role.” The piece notes how, with rapid datafication, the need for data stewards is becoming more important every day. However, there is still much confusion about what the position’s required competencies are, what skills are needed, and what the job specifications should be. 

With that in mind, Stefaan provides a job description for data stewards, outlining the responsibilities, skills, and behaviors of a data steward below. Such a job description may not only help organizations create formal data steward roles internally and recruit externally, but it will also help aspiring data stewards seek out the relevant training and opportunities for them to strengthen their skillset.

Our Five Conjectures to Explore in 2023 as They Relate to Data for Good by Hannah Chafetz, Uma Kalkar, Marine Ragnet, Stefaan Verhulst

In January to kick off the year, Hannah Chafetz, Uma Kalkar, Marine Ragnet, Stefaan Verhulst published “Our Five Conjectures to Explore in 2023 as They Relate to Data for Good.” Taking stock of recent data and technology trends, it offers some conjectures related to non-traditional data use, data openness, social licenses, and adaptive and generative AI and some ideas about how these ideas may play out over the next year.



Cover image by Yannes Kiefer | Unsplash is licensed under CC0.

Back to the Blog

Supported by