Highlights from the Ask Us Anything hangouts (part I)

February 17, 2015 in Fellowship
We carried out a couple of video hangouts with 2014 fellows to talk more about last year’s fellowship programme, and about the upcoming programme which has an open Call for Applications, closing on March 10th. For those who prefer reading to watching, here are some highlights and questions that came up during the video hangouts!

Question: What is the typical day of a School of Data fellow?

Happy: As a fellow, I spent a lot of time learning! The Fellowship really helped me to be brave and dive into the data… other than the events you have to do, a lot of it is a learning experience. It really never stops!

Yuandra: Usually, I meet with a lot of people – working with data is very new in my country, Indonesia, so there was lots of interest. I spent lots of time going from organisation to organisation, raising awareness of what they can do with data. Then, planning training – the materials, preparing them, thinking about how to package the materials in a way that people will understand.

Question: What skills are needed to be a School of Data fellow?

Milena: We’re looking for a diversity of skills among the fellows, we’re hoping each fellow will have a strong skill that they’ll be able to teach others, as well as be able to identify gaps in their own knowledge. We only have 7 spaces this year, which is fewer than last year, so it will (hopefully!) be a competitive process.

Codrina: It’s important to have some connections in your region, because the Fellowship (and School of Data) is not just about learning things for yourself, but then to take what you have learned and what you know, and spread it in your own geographical context. Or if you don’t already – be prepared to go around and meet lots of new organisations and build the community around you!

Yuandra: Community building is really important, you’ll be working with other organisations around you who definitely have the need for data. So is communication: my background is very technical, but this Fellowship taught me how to put my technical jargon aside, and explain issues in a simple way for newcomers to the topic.

Question: What kinds of projects did Fellows carry out?

Yuandra: I worked with Publish What You Pay (who work on extractive industries transparency), who previously only used data in Excel, and for reports. When I went there, one of my main points was to show them how they can use data in other ways, for example in visualisations and infographics. They’re still in an early stage of working with data, but they’ve come a long way!

Codrina: I’m a mapping person, so much of the work I did involved either building maps or teaching people how to use them, and how to stay away from usual map problems. I went to Bosnia & Herzegovina, and worked on election maps. If you’re ever curious about the most horrible election system in the world – take a look! We spent a week trying to work out how it works, we ended up asking people to explain the system in a 3 minute video, which worked really well.

Happy: I found that it’s hard to ‘sell’ open data to different CSOs just by explaining – so, I wanted to use my own organisation as a model, to demonstrate what exactly people can do with open data. It was a really good way actually for us to engage with government – you build trust, and partnerships with them, by teaching them what they can do with data. Now, the government are opening up datasets that they’ve never opened before – so this is really exciting for me.

Nisha: We did a data journalism workshop for people who are really not very technologically savvy – it was really rewarding because after a while of working with people who want to know more advanced stuff, you can forget there’s lots of people who still want to know the basics, so you get to open this whole new world to them. We also did a data expedition with an organisation that’s working in the urban space in Hyderabad, with data that they’d collected.

If you like the sound of what last year’s fellows got up to – why not apply yourself and join us as one of the 2015 Fellows? More details are available here, and if you have any further questions please drop us a line on info[at]schoolofdata.org or on @SchoolofData. Applications close on March 10th, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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