School of Data retreat roundup

November 5, 2014 in Events


A couple of weeks ago, the Knowledge Unit, (Heather Leson, Anders Pedersen, Lucy Chambers, Milena Marin, Sam Leon, Zara Rahman and James Hamilton) met up in person for a face-to-face team meeting. You’ll be hearing about lots of the things that got discussed as we get through the (many!) post-it notes that were produced during the week; but for now, we wanted to share a few initial thoughts and learnings.

  1. Taking the time to sit down and remember why we’re all here, and focus on all the great stuff that School of Data has done, is really important and a great motivator.

  2. Thinking about our ‘users’ or ‘stakeholders’ can be confusing, but is important: who uses School of Data? We’ve thought about it in the past as simply civil society and journalists, but increasingly we’re seeing demand come from the government side, who are recognising that levels of data literacy among their staff is also low.

  3. Out of everything we’ve done and delivered this year, we’re probably most proud of the 2014 School of Data fellowship scheme; we’re now working with 12 incredible data leaders from across the world, who we met up with in person during our first Summer Camp in Berlin this summer. We’re learning more from them than we ever could have imagined, and we hope that bringing together such stellar leaders from around the world is strengthening our collective data training skills!

  4. We need to revamp our website: and this needs dedicated time and effort. However, due to limited human and financial resources and other firm commitments that our team has to deliver this year, we decided to postpone the revamping of the website for January 2015.

  5. The curriculum is an octopus: we have so much curriculum material online, but it is very scattered! Lots of valuable training materials are hiding on the blog, in Google Docs somewhere, on individuals computers; we need to get better at collating and standardising this, so that others can use these materials and build upon them.

  6. On a meta-level: we set high expectations of ourselves, and perhaps we work ourselves a little too hard. Looking after our own well-being is crucial to being able to perform at our highest ability at work – this could include things like taking time off even when we worry that we’ve got too much to do, or taking regular breaks at our laptops to reduce the risk of RSI.

  7. We need to get better at documenting what we do: sitting down to write a blog post or a write-up of a training often falls to the bottom of the priority list, but this can cause us problems when we’re trying to prove that we are, in fact, doing a lot! We’re trying to do this better now ourselves and within the network, too.

  8. Governance of the School of Data network is tricky, and we need advice on how to do it best: so, we’re going to seek advice from experts and build an Advisory Board. School of Data has grown so organically and so quickly that it’s almost taken us by surprise; but we want more than anything to make sure that engaged and active members of the School of Data community can shape the way that School of Data evolves in the future.

  9. We’ve done some pretty great things this year; from launching the fellowship scheme, organising the first School of Data summer camp, to producing topic-specific curriculum, working with organisations such as Global Witness to produce influential data-driven advocacy work, seeing School of Data grow into 5 different languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Greek), organising the School of Data journalism track in Perugia, not to mention tens (or hundreds?!) of workshops and training sessions literally across the world. And of course, none of this would be possible without the support and engagement of such a wonderful community, for which we are very grateful, humbled and honoured!

We hope you’ll join us on the next stage of the School of Data evolution, and we will of course be in touch with you very soon to gather your opinions and learn from your expertise. Thank you!

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