2017 in the Responsible Data Community


/ February 1, 2018

Last year, we spent several months consulting with responsible data (RD) community members around the world on the needs of the RD community. We are forever grateful to everyone who shared their time and thoughts with us. Throughout the redesign process, these conversations, as well as your radical candor guided us and laid the foundations for the new responsible data site.

As we dive into 2018 and all the newness it will bring we want to take a step back and celebrate the work of the RD community in 2017.

From budding thoughts to implementing projects

We witnessed a growing number of organisations – like USAID, DataKindUK and Oxfam – engage with responsible data practices and work hard to embed them into their values and work. In the case of Oxfam, this work resulted in the development of a responsible data management toolkit, a research report that sheds light on how Oxfam’s responsible data policy is being implemented, and a community call to discuss the challenges of implementing a responsible data policy at an organisational level.

SIMLab’s timely Do Good Data report addressed the complexity of responsibly using technology in social change projects, and reminded us that we need to address this challenge at the ecosystem level, backed by institutional behavior changes, an individual internalization of RD practices, and cooperative working between implementers and donors.

Reaching these implementations stage of a responsible data project or policy only ever happens after long periods of reflection. Providing a space for critical wonder, the responsible data forum is open to budding thoughts and contributions by community members. In 2017, we loved reading thoughts from Alix Dunn on making responsible data choices in project design, a reading list of critical debates on quantitative human rights measures by Anita Gohdes, and an overview of responsible and inclusive approaches to measuring human rights by Anne-Marie Brook. Moving forward, we want to continue using the forum as a space where people can share their thoughts and work around responsible data topics. If you’re interested in writing a blog post, or are launching a new responsible data policy, report or project, you can always get in touch.

Meeting members on the micro and the macro level

In 2017, the community grew to 689 members, and we continue to try to find new ways to engage on a micro and macro level. On a number of occasions, community members were able to meet each other at events, such as at the responsible data forum on open source investigations for human rights at the Stockholm Internet Forum, at MERL Tech DC, or, virtually, on community calls to discuss topics like the GDPR.

At the heart of the community still sits the listserv, and in 2017 the responsible data mailing list continued to be the hotbed for inspiring and frank conversations about a broad range of topics. Throughout the year, members discussed topics including data protection in Kenya, security practices for mapping and secure document management tools. In many cases, members provided the community with interesting resources. To make sure that as many people as possible can find their way to this useful information, we’ve been compiling resources in reading lists on topics like indigenous people and responsible data, the GDPR, and responsible data considerations for open source investigation in human rights.

What happens next?

The RD community is driven by its members, and going into 2018 (with a fresh look no less), we are committed to continue stimulating discussions in a space that is as large as it is diverse. If you’re curious about witnessing and/or contributing to developments of the responsible data community, join the Responsible Data mailing list.You can also subscribe to the Misson:Responsible newsletter, a monthly newsletter curated by members of the responsible data community. If you have suggestions for things to include, or if you’d like to be a guest curator, get in touch with us on hello[at]responsibledata.io.

Paola Verhaert

About the contributor

Paola is a Belgian-Peruvian historian, writer and creative coder. Her broad range of interests motivated her to pursue studies in the history of solidarity, logic, and digital humanities. Prior to joining The Engine Room, she worked as journalist, as a research assistant at the University College of London, and as a UX designer at Amnesty International. She’s always up for a chat about archives, creative coding, and NBA trivia.

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