Keeping the #RDFbuda energy buzzing

/ October 3, 2014

There was some serious responsible data energy produced in Budapest this week!

Aspiration led the RDF Responsible Resource Sprint at the home of Open Society Archives. In many ways this event was a culmination of the other responsible data events we’ve organized, from the big tent kick off in Oakland, toBrains for Beer sessions and one-on-one support conversations. But in many ways, this is also the beginning.

A fantastic community is developing around responsible data, made up of people who care deeply about making data-driven advocacy as efficient, safe and responsible as it can be. We’re so grateful for this community’s willingness to devote their limited time and powerful experience to what is essentially a barn-raising effort in a landscape we still don’t understand very well. They’re doing amazing things, and Budapest was a chance to take stock of those efforts. This is a quick post to lay out what this community produced this week, what’s next, and what we’re learning along the way.

What 50 people got done in 2 days

We went into Budapest with a list of 8 outputs created in previous events that were close to testing, while leaving opportunities for new output-ideas to be suggested. We’re thrilled to report that most of these outputs have moved forward with great energy! We’re in the process of collecting everything and organizing the information in a useful way on our responsible data wiki. This will be a space for ongoing collaboration and possibly dissemination of these outputs. Subscribe to our RDF updates email list to be updated when this wiki is ready!

What we’re learning

To date, our approach to the responsible data events has been to focus on collaboratively developing concrete tools and strategies for front-line advocacy. We’re still processing and reflecting on all the amazing responsible data work that the community has taken-on so far, but here’s some initial thoughts on collaboratively producing practical tools.

  1. Basics are hard. Setting the basics of a tool (the conceptual frame, the use case and the substantive scope) seems consistently to be the most demanding part of these sessions. Once the basic frame is in place, work goes smoothly and quickly.
  2. Focus is key. There’s often a bit of moving between working groups in these events, as people find what they’re most interested in, and we’ve now had some experience with teams for a specific output changing completely. This makes for a significant roadblock, to the extent that the basics have to be renegotiated.
  3. Passing the baton is healthy. Several of the outputs that we brought to Budapest were taken on by new groups, and many of these were broken down and rebuilt from scratch, often incorporating only a few components. Sometimes this produced something very different, sometimes something targeting a slightly different use case. But these outputs were consistently strong.
  4. Time is a luxury. Two days in Budapest were wonderful; at RDFs we usually have only one. It would be great to have four.
  5. Leadership and ownership is key. Collaboration works best when those driving the development of something are designing for themselves. Interest in the topic, by itself, is not enough to produce a successful, concrete output; meaningful intention to use the final product can improve its design and value immeasurably.
  6. Reality checks are critical. To a certain extent, this might be doable in piloting. But it’s invaluable to have at least one person in a group who’s doing country work, and can keep reminding people about all the weird and challenging ways that things roll out to end users.

We are fortunate to have Aspiration as a co-organizer for the Responsible Data Forum. They’ve been rolling out best practices for facilitating collaborative eventsfor years, and are well-known for careful thinking about how to make event outputs meaningful. We’ve learned a tremendous amount from them about how to support the responsible data community to learn and make things together.

Aspiration wiki


Keeping things moving forward

The key now is to keep these connections and tools alive, beyond the event. Conversations on how to keep the community connected, manage the ongoing development of these tools, and plans for testing and disseminating started here at #RDFbuda and we are eager to continue these important discussions with the responsible data community. Stay tuned to upcoming opportunities to dive into these questions and ideas on our RDF discussion list.

Thanks to everyone who participated and supported the Responsible Data Resource Sprint! Your energy is inspiring and we’re committed to keep the momentum (and all the buzz) alive.

About the contributor

Tom started out writing and editing for newspapers, consultancies and think tanks on topics including politics and corruption in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, then moved into designing and managing election-related projects in countries including Myanmar, Bangladesh, Rwanda and Bolivia. After getting interested in what data and technology could add in those areas and elsewhere, he made a beeline for The Engine Room. Tom is trying to read all of the Internet, but mostly spends his time picking out useful resources and trends for organisations using technology in their work.

See Tom's Articles

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