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Rethinking data literacy: how useful is your 2-day training?

Cedric Lombion - July 14, 2017 in Research

As of July 2017, School of Data’s network includes 14 organisations around the world which collectively participate to organise hundreds of data literacy events every year. The success of this network-based strategy did not come naturally: we had to rethink and move away from our MOOC-like strategy in 2013 in order to be more relevant to the journalists and civil society organisations we intend to reach.

In 2016 we did the same for our actual events.

The downside of short-term events

Prominent civic tech members have long complained about the ineffectiveness of hackathons to build long-lasting solutions for the problems they intended to tackle. Yet various reasons have kept the hackathon popular: it’s short-term, can produce decent-looking prototypes, and is well-known even beyond civic tech circles.

The above stays true for the data literacy movement and its most common short-term events: meetups, data and drinks, one-day trainings, two-day workshops… they’re easy to run, fund and promote: what’s not to love?

Well, we’ve never really been satisfied with the outcomes we saw of these events, especially for our flagship programme, the Fellowship, which we monitor very closely and aim to improve every year. Following several rounds of surveys and interviews with members of the School of Data network, we were able to pinpoint the issue: our expectations and the actual value of these events are mismatched, leading us not to take critical actions that would multiply the value of these events.

The Data Literacy Activity Matrix

To clarify our findings, we put the most common interventions (not all of them are events, strictly speaking) in a matrix, highlighting our key finding that duration is a crucial variable. And this makes sense for several reasons:

  • Fewer people can participate in a longer event, but those who can are generally more committed to the event’s goals

  • Longer events have much more time to develop their content and explore the nuances of it

  • Especially in the field of data literacy, which is focused on capacity building, time and repetition are key to positive outcomes

Data Literacy Activity Matrix

(the categories used to group event formats are based on our current thinking of what makes a data literacy leader: it underpins the design of our Fellowship programme.)

Useful for what?

The matrix allowed us to think critically about the added value of each subcategory of intervention. What is the effective impact of an organisation doing mostly short-term training events compared to another one focusing on long-term content creation? Drawing again from the interviews we’ve done and some analysis of the rare post-intervention surveys and reports we could access (another weakness of the field), we came to the following conclusions:

  • very short-term and short-term activities are mostly valuable for awareness-raising and community-building.

  • real skill-building happens through medium to long-term interventions

  • content creation is best focused on supporting skill-building interventions and data-driven projects (rather than hoping that people come to your content and learn by themselves)

  • data-driven projects (run in collaboration with your beneficiaries) are the ones creating the clearest impact (but not necessarily the longest lasting).

Data Literacy Matrix - Value Added

It is important, though, not to set short-term and long-term interventions in opposition. Not only can the difference be fuzzy (a long term intervention can be a series of regular, linked, short term events, for example) but both play roles of critical importance: who is going to apply to a data training if people are not aware of the importance of data? Conversely, recognising the specific added value of each intervention requires also to act in consequence: we advise against organising short-term events without establishing a community engagement strategy to sustain the event’s momentum.

In hindsight, all of the above may sound obvious. But it mostly is relevant from the perspective of the beneficiary. Coming from the point of the view of the organisation running a data literacy programme, the benefit/cost is defined differently.

For example, short-term interventions are a great way to find one’s audience, get new trainers to find their voice, and generate press cheaply. Meanwhile, long-term interventions are costly and their outcomes are harder to measure: is it really worth it to focus on training only 10 people for several months, when the same financial investment can bring hundreds of people to one-day workshops? Even when the organisation can see the benefits, their funders may not. In a field where sustainability is still a complicated issue many organisations face, long-term actions are not a priority.

Next steps

School of Data has taken steps to apply these learnings to its programmes.

  • The Curriculum programme, which initially focused on the production and maintenance of online content available on our website has been expanded to include offline trainings during our annual event, the Summer Camp, and online skillshares throughout the year;

  • Our recommendations to members regarding their interventions systematically refer to the data literacy matrix in order for them to understand the added value of their work;

  • Our Data Expert programme has been designed to include both data-driven project work and medium-term training of beneficiaries, differentiating it further from straightforward consultancy work.

We have also identified three directions in which we can research this topic further:

  • Mapping existing interventions: the number, variety and quality of data literacy interventions is increasing every year, but so far no effort has been made to map them, in order to identify the strengths and gaps of the field.

  • Investigating individual subgroups: the matrix is a good starting point for interrogating best practices and concrete outcomes in each of the subgroups, in order to provide more granular recommendations to the actors of the field and the designing of new intervention models.

  • Exploring thematic relevance: the audience, goals and constraints of, say, data journalism interventions, differ substantially from those of the interventions undertaken within the extractives data community. Further research would be useful to see how they differ to develop topic-relevant recommendations.

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[French] Le Fellowship de School of Data : Questions et réponses

Cedric Lombion - March 29, 2017 in Fellowship

En 2017, nous recrutons des Fellows dans trois pays francophones: Haïti, Côte d’Ivoire et Sénégal. Les thèmes sont les suivants :

  • Haïti: Fondamentaux de la littératie de données
  • Côte d’Ivoire, Sénégal: Données de l’industrie extractive.

Voir l’annonce principale

Vous n’êtes pas certains que le Fellowship soit fait pour vous ? Vous vous posez encore des questions ? Cet article rassemble les questions et réponses les plus courantes. Nous le mettrons à jour aussi souvent que possible !

  • En quoi consiste le Fellowship de School of Data ?

Les Fellowships sont des placements de 9 mois au sein du réseau School of Data pour des individus pratiquant ou passionnés par la littératie de données. Au cours de cette période, les Fellows travaillent aux côtés de l’équipe de coordination et du réseau de School of Data : vous apprendrez beaucoup de nous, et inversement ! Nous travaillerons ensemble pour construire un programme individuel pour votre Fellowship. Avec pour but d’acquérir les compétences vous permettant de progresser sur votre travail de littératie de donnée: pour former les autres, développer un réseau, organiser des événements. Quelle que soit l’activité, notre objectif est de sensibiliser à la littératie de données et construire des communautés qui, ensemble, peuvent utiliser les compétences d’usage des données afin d’être moteur du changement dans le monde.

Le Fellowship a pour objectif de recruter et former la prochaine génération de “data leaders” et formateurs afin d’étendre l’impact de notre programme de littératie de la donnée. Les Fellows fournissent une formation et un appui dans le temps aux journalistes, organisations de la société civile et individus innovants afin qu’ils soient capables d’utiliser les données de façon pertinente au sein de leur communauté ou pays. Nous recherchons des candidats qui ont des liens existants avec un réseau de promoteurs de la littératie de données, ou qui ont des connexions au sein d’une organisation particulière travaillent dans ce domaine.

Nous recrutons nos Fellows annuellement, et chaque génération devient une partie intégrante du réseau international de School of Data. Ils peuvent donc s’apputer sur la force du réseau pour partager des ressources ou connaissances, de façon à contribuer au mieux à notre compréhension des meilleurs stratégies pour mener des formations pertinentes au niveau local.

  • Est-ce que le Fellow doit habiter/être en permanence dans le pays ?

Il est attendu des Fellows qu’ils soient disponibles 10 jours par mois pour le Fellowship. La plupart des missions nécessiteront une présence de terrain, ce qui sera plus facile si vous habitez le pays au moins 2 semaines par mois. Par ailleurs, nous recherchons des personnes qui aimeraient rester actives sur le long terme dans le pays, ce qui implique qu’un candidat y habitant sera favorisé. Cela dit, nous sommes flexibles et si un Fellow a un déplacement prévu, nous saurons trouver un arrangement.

  • Est-ce que le Fellow doit parler couramment anglais ?

La coordination du Fellowship se fera en Français pour les Fellows francophones. Cela dit, un avantage sera donné aux candidats sachant parler anglais: il est important de pouvoir communiquer avec les reste de la communauté School of Data ! Pas besoin d’être bilingue cependant, être capable de parler un anglais simple et de comprendre des interlocuteurs anglophones est suffisant.

  • Les Fellows devront-ils voyager durant le programme ?

Oui. En mai, à l’occasion du Camp d’Été de School of Data, les Fellows rejoindront la communauté en Afrique du Sud pour planifier leur Fellowship et être formés aux méthodologies de School of Data. Cela nécessite donc d’avoir un passeport, et de lancer les démarches de demande de visa dès que vous êtes sélectionnés. Pensez-y !

Vous avez des questions mais pas de réponses ? Contactez nous via Twitter ou notre site!

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[French] Postulez maintenant! Candidatures ouvertes pour les programmes de School of Data

Cedric Lombion - March 21, 2017 in Announcement, Fellowship

School of Data invite journalistes, associations de la société civiles – et quiconque intéressé par la promotion de la littératie de données – à candidater à son programme de Fellowship. Les candidatures pour ce programmes, qui durent d’avril à mai 2017, fermeront Dimanche 16 avril 2017. Pour le Fellowship francophones, School of Data recherche des candidats dans trois pays:

  • Sénégal
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Haïti

Candidater pour Fellowship  ou lire la Foire aux questions.

Note: si vous venez d’un autre pays, veuillez vous référer à l’annonce principale, en anglais

Le Fellowship

Les Fellowships sont des placements de 9 mois au sein du réseau School of Data pour des individus pratiquant ou passionnés par la littératie de données. Au cours de cette période, les Fellows travaillent aux côtés de l’équipe de coordination et du réseau de School of Data : vous apprendrez beaucoup de nous, et inversement ! Nous travaillerons ensemble pour construire un programme individuel pour votre Fellowship. Avec pour but d’acquérir les compétences vous permettant de progresser sur votre travail de littératie de donnée: pour former les autres, développer un réseau, organiser des événements.

A l’image des années précédentes, l’objectif du programme de Fellowship est de faire la promotion de la littératie de données et de construire des communautés qui, ensemble, pourront utiliser leurs compétences liées aux données pour créer le changement qu’elles veulent voir dans le monde.

Le Fellowship 2017 poursuit l’approche thématique entamée par notre processus de recrutement de 2016. Ainsi, nous prioriserons les candidats qui:

  • font preuve d’une expérience et d’un enthousiasme envers une thématique spécifique de la littératie de données.
  • peuvent justifier de liens avec une organisation ou une communauté d’individus qui travaillent sur cette thématique

Nous recherchons des candidats qui ont une connaissance approfondie des domaines qui nous intéressent et qui ont entamé une réflexion sur les enjeux de littératie de données de ces domaines. Le but étant de pouvoir rentrer dans le vif du sujet le plus vite possible: 9 mois passent vite !

Pour en lire plus sur le programme de Fellowship (en anglais)

Le thèmes prioritaires de 2017

Nous collaborons cette année avec des organisations intéressés par les thèmes suivants:

  • données des industries extractives
  • fondamentaux de la littératie de données
Programme Thématique Pays
Fellowship Données de l’industri extractive Sénégal, Côte d’Ivoire
Fellowship Fondamentaux de la littératie de données Haïti

9 mois pour laisser un impact

Le programme se déroule d’avril à décembre 2017, et requiert 10 jours par mois de disponibilité. Les Fellows reçoivent un défraiement de 1,000 US$ par mois pour leur permettre de travailler dans des conditions optimales.

En mai, les Fellows rejoindront le reste de la communauté dans le cadre du Camp d’Ete de School of Data (pays à confirmer). Ce sera l’occasion de rencontrer les autres Fellows et membres du réseau, de planifier votre Fellowship et d’apprendre des autres participants sur les bonnes pratiques utilisées au sein du réseau School of Data.

Qu’attendez-vous ?

Lire la Foire aux questions or Candidater

Informations clé: le Fellowship

  • Date limite de candidature : 16 avril 2017, minuit GMT+0
  • Durée : d’avril 24 2017 au 31 décembre 2017
  • Disponibilité requise : 10 jours par mois
  • Défraiement : 1000 US$ par mois

Diversité et inclusivité

Nous nous engageons à être inclusifs dans notre processus de recrutement. Être inclusif signifie de n’exclure personne pour des questions d’origine ethnique, de religion, d’apparence, d’orientation sexuelle, ou de genre. Nous cherchons activement à recruiter des individus qui diffèrent les uns des autres sur ces caractéristiques, car nous sommes convaincus que la diversité est une richesse pour notre travail.

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Apply Now! School of Data’s Fellowship and Data Expert Programmes

Cedric Lombion - March 2, 2017 in Announcement, Fellowship

image alt text

School of Data is inviting journalists, civil society advocates and anyone interested in pushing data literacy forward to apply for its 2017 Fellowship and Data Expert Programmes, which will run from April to December 2017. Up to 10 positions are open, with an application deadline set on Sunday, April 16th of 2017.

Apply for the Fellowship Programme or Apply for the Data Expert Programme

The Fellowship

Fellowships are nine-month placements with School of Data for data-literacy practitioners or enthusiasts. During this time, Fellows work alongside School of Data to build an individual programme that will make use of both the collective experience of School of Data’s network to help Fellows gain new skills, and the knowledge that Fellows bring along with them, be it about a topic, a community or specific data literacy challenges.

Similarly to previous years, our aim with the Fellowship programme is to increase awareness of data literacy and build communities who together, can use data literacy skills to make the change they want to see in the world.

The 2017 Fellowship will continue the thematic approach pioneered by the 2016 class. As a result, we will be prioritising candidates who:

  • possess experience in, and enthusiasm for, a specific area of data literacy training

  • can demonstrate links with an organisation practising in this defined area and/or links with an established network operating in the field

We are looking for engaged individuals who already have in-depth knowledge of a given sector and have been reflecting on the data literacy challenges faced in the field. This will help Fellows get off to a running start and achieve the most during their time with School of Data: nine months fly by!

Read More about the Fellowship Programme

The Data Expert programme

Launched formally for the first time this year, the Data Expert programme aims to strengthen the ability of strategic civil society organisations that are strategically positioned to bring about social change in their field of expertise to manage and deliver data driven projects. The Data Expert Programme was designed to complement the School of Data Fellowship and for it, we are recruiting a slightly different profile. Data Experts are expected to be more senior than fellows, with demonstrable technical and project management skills. By matching these individuals with the selected partner organisations, while providing them support through our network and partners, we expect to create a decisive impact on the use of data within key civil society organisations around the world

We will consequently prioritise individuals who:

  • possess relevant experience and expertise in the technical areas our local partners need help with
  • can demonstrate a strong interest in the field of activity of the civil society organisation they will be supporting

Read More about the Data Expert Programme

The areas of focus in 2017

We have partnered with organisations interested in working on the following themes: Data Journalism, Procurement and Extractives Data. These amazing partner organisations will provide Fellows and Experts with guidance, mentorship and expertise in their respective domains.

Programme Theme Location Open slots
Fellowship Extractives Data Sénégal, Côte d’Ivoire Up to 2
Fellowship Procurement Data Wordwide Up to 1
Fellowship Data Journalism Worldwide Up to 2
Fellowship Own focus Worldwide Up to 3
Data Expert Extractives Data Uganda, Tanzania 2

9 months to make an impact

The two programmes will run from April to December 2017, and entail up to 10 days a month of time. While Fellows will be focused on ironing their skills as data trainers and build a community around them, Experts will focus on supporting and training a civil society organisation or newsroom with a specific project. Fellows will receive a monthly stipend of $1,000 USD a month to cover for their work. Experts, who will have a planning with more variations, will receive a total stipend of $10,500 USD over the course of the programme.

In May, both Experts and Fellows will come together during an in-person Summer Camp (location to be decided) to meet their peers, build and share their skills, and learn about the School of Data way of training people on data skills.

What are you waiting for?

Read more about School of Data’s Fellowship or Apply now

Read more about School of Data’s Expert Programme or Apply now

Key Information: Fellowship

  • Available positions: up to 10 fellows. Learn more.
  • Application deadline: April 16th, 2017, midnight GMT+0
  • Duration: From April 24th, 2017 to December 31st, 2017
  • Level of activity: 10 days per month
  • Stipend: $1000 USD per month

Key Information: Data Expert Programme
* Available positions: 2 Experts, in Uganda and Tanzania. Learn more.
* Application deadline: April 16th, 2017, midnight GMT+0
* Duration: From April 24th, 2017 to December 31st, 2017
* Level of activity: up to 10 days per month.
* Stipend: $10,500 USD in total

Key links

About diversity and inclusivity

School of Data is committed to being inclusive in its recruitment practices. Inclusiveness means excluding no one because of race, age, religion, cultural appearance, sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender. We proactively seek to recruit individuals who differ from one another in these characteristics, in the belief that diversity enriches all that we do.

Finally, we are grateful for the support of our partners and funders for making these programmes funded. The School of Data Programme is funded through grants from the following institutions: Internews/USAID, Open Data For Development (World Bank & IDRC), the Hewlett Foundation & the Open Society Foundations, the Natural Resources Governance Institute and Publish What You Pay.

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Welcome to School of Data’s Second Steering Committee!

Cedric Lombion - October 11, 2016 in Announcement, Community

During the 2016 School of Data Summer Camp, a new Steering Committee has been elected by our members. Replacing the “transition” Steering Committee, which oversaw the transformation of School of Data into a network-driven project, the new Steering Committee is elected for 2 years, as will be future ones. Along with overseeing the budget, strategy and sustainability of the School of Data project, the new Steering Committee will oversee the formation incorporation of School of Data into a dedicated NGO.

Welcome to the new Steering Committee!

Bardhyl Jashari

Bardhyl is the director of Metamorphosis Foundation (Macedonia). His professional interests are mainly in the sphere of new technologies, media, civic activism, e-government and participation. Previously he worked as Information Program Coordinator of the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia. He is a member of the National Council for Information Society of Macedonia and National Expert for Macedonia of the UN World Summit Award.

Pavel Richter

Pavel is Chief Executive Officer at Open Knowledge International. He was Executive Director of Wikimedia Deutschland, and pioneered the internationally acclaimed Wikidata project which is now the fastest growing project for open structured data. Pavel is in on the Advisory Board of Transparency International Germany and Code for Germany. He holds a Masters Degree in Political Science, History and Constitutional Law. He worked for 12 years as a management consultant in the IT and banking industry, before he started to focus on managing non-profit organisations.

Camila Salazar

Camila is a journalist, economist and data journalism professor currently working with the data unit of the La Nacion Costa Rica. After her Fellowship, she has participated in several activities as senior Fellow, sharing her skills with the new generation of Fellows 2016 and also constantly involved in content development for School of Data.

Juan Manuel Casanueva

Juan researches and promotes ICT for Social Change projects in Latin America. He is the CEO and co-founder of SocialTIC, a non-profit that enables changemakers through the strategic use of ICTs. He was ICFJ Knight Fellow 2014-2015 focused on enabling ICT and data-driven journalism in Mexico and Central America.

Sylvia Fredriksson

Sylvia is designer and project coordinator at École de Données (School of Data France). Her work is dedicated to civil society empowerment through design and technology. She now works as a designer-researcher at the Cité du Design in Sainte-Etienne, France. She specialised in Hypermedia at Paris 8 University and regularly teach design classes.

In Latvia, a plea for citizens to push for data-driven public policy

Cedric Lombion - August 18, 2016 in Event report, Fellowship

Data is the core substance required for evidence-based policies and decision-making. “How do we make Latvia the country that makes most use of data to inform its decision-making?” was the question that Latvian MP’s and civil-society representatives tried to answer during 1,5 hours on the hot morning of July 2nd, at the occasion of the second edition of the national political festival, LAMPA.

image alt text

This festival, funded by the DOTS foundation, aims to clarify the concept of open data which is still new for Latvian law-makers, who often confuse it with public data. The discussions there serve as a good encouragement to give data to the hands of regular citizens and encourage them to participate in national, evidence-based policy making.

The roadblocks to evidence-based decision-making

None of the participants denied the importance of evidence in decision-making. Nevertheless, many alarming issues were detected. Open data, and engaging civil society in its use, was seen as one of the best short-term solutions for producing more thoughtful policy-making.

First, the State Controller, Elita Krumina, raised the issue that evidence – based on statistics, research documents and research papers – needs to be revised every year. There are many policies based on outdated evidence, even though the real situation has actually changed.

Another issue the Head of State Secretary Office, Martins Krievins, illuminated was that oftentimes decisions are made quickly and there is no time for lengthy research and data-gathering. At the same time, Krumina suggested that a great deal of research is conducted, but the benefit is small: “These papers repeat already-known principles of good governance without giving much data-driven solutions,” she explained.

The problem of trust

“The problem is, we don’t trust many evidence,” says Krievins. He gave an example of the census results: “First, everyone said that the data is incorrect because more people left the country than was counted. Then, when the state conducted an outsourced census, the first question was – whom did the hired company pay in bribes?”

Krievins said that data can be easily manipulated based on policy goals, whereas parliamentarian and experienced politician, Sergejs Dolgopolovs, said that he thinks it’s important to set goals and assess all the risks in order to make better decisions.

Later, Krievins admitted that there are many complex issues with evidence that may encourage a bad decision to be made: “Everyone realises that small schools in the countryside are expensive – the evidence is clear. Nevertheless, schools in the countryside are cultural centres for the local area, hosting many social events. There would be a broad social impact if small schools were to be closed.”

Ernests Jenavs, the founder and CEO of Edurio, an app that helps users to make evidence-based decisions in education, said that evidence should be separated from ideology: “Data should be analysed by independent people, not politically biased decision-makers,” says Jenavs. He suggested opening data, so that politically independent civil society members can suggest evidence-based solutions. Nika Aleksejeva, the Head of School of Data Latvia, agreed with this point, adding that there is a need for enhancing data-literacy in Latvian society and encouraging people to use open data.

Technology allows us to engage with society faster and more cheaply than before, agreed both Janevs and Aleksejeva.

The discussion was concluded by a unanimous message from the panel – there should be much more pressure from civil society for evidence-based decisions in government, and data should be open for everyone to be able to contribute to this decision-making.

Video (in Latvian): link


Infobox
Event name: Festival “Lampa”, discussion “How to make Latvia the greatest country of evidence based policy-making?”
Event type: Roundtable
Event theme: open data and data-driven public policy
Description: Possibilities to execute more evidence based and data-driven policies in Latvian government
Speakers: Ernests Jenavs (the founder and CEO of Edurio) Nika Aleksejeva (the Head of School of Data Latvia) Sergejs Dolgopolovs (parliamentarian), Elita Krumina (the State Controller), Ilze Vinkele (parliamentarian), Martins Krievins (Head of State Secretary Office), Valts Kalnins (The lead researcher at think-tank PROVIDUS)
Partners: NA
Location: Cesis, Latvia
Date: July 2
Audience: cycling society representatives, analysts, others
Number of attendees NA
Gender split: NA
Duration: 1 hour

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Join #MappingEcuador

Cedric Lombion - April 19, 2016 in Community

terremoto

On April 16th, a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit the coast of Ecuador. As the victim count reached near 300 people on Sunday, the Open Data community around the globe organized to create a base map for rescue and distress relief purposes.

A lot has been done in a short time, but there is still plenty to do.

Helping remotely

You don’t need to live in Ecuador to help the volunteers: mapping can be done from wherever you are. If you don´t know how, start with this wiki document.

Open Street Maps (OSM) is just one of the tools you can use without being in Ecuador. It basically digitalizes satellite images and transforms them into an open and editable database and a map so rescue squads and people in general know where to allocate resources or avoid risks.

The OSM Task Manager prioritizes and divides the work among users so volunteer work won´t overlap. This is where to begin.

Mapping efforts are conducted by Humberto Yances (Humanitarian Open Street Map Team) and Daniel Orellana (Open Street Maps Ecuador), who launched two tutorials in Spanish yesterday, for basic and intermediate mappers. You can a tutorial in english here.

Helping when in Ecuador

If you are in Ecuador, there are other ways to help beside Open Street Maps: platform Mapa Desastre allows you to send and visualize reports on specific issues and their geographic location. You can also set GPS alerts based on their changing location. All of this data is also public and available for both the general population and humanitarian squads.

Another indispensable tool for those in Ecudaor is Google Person Finder, an online repository where you can search for missing people or send information about lost people you found yourself.

Mapillary and Open Street Map Android Tracker allow you to upload pictures of specific locations at the disaster.

To strenghten the ranks of volunteer mappers, Open Data Ecuador organized yesterday, April 18, a workshop to train volunteers to map at the Ciespal building in Quito.

This article is a translation by Gibrán Mena from an original article in Spanish published on the Escuela de Datos website.

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Applications closed for School of Data’s 2016 Fellowship

Cedric Lombion - March 11, 2016 in Announcement, Fellowship

2016 Fellowship Banner Simple-01

On February 10, School of Data started its recruitment process to find the 2016 Fellows who will be spreading data literacy around the world with our support.

The applications are now closed and we have started reviewing the applications. Proof of the growing popularity of School of Data’s Fellowship programme, more than 700 people from close to 100 different countries applied to be part of our next class of Fellows. We will make sure to review the applications through the lens of fairness and inclusiveness, two values that School of Data stands for.

A shortlist of selected applicants for each thematic focus will be interviewed by members of the School of Data coordination team along with our partners for the 2016 Fellowship, Internews, NRGI and the Engine Room. The final results will be announced shortly before April 1st, which marks the official start of the 2016 Fellowship.

Thank you to everyone who applied or helped spread the word!

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New Data Journalism Academy in South Africa embodies ‘living laboratory’ training model

Cedric Lombion - March 10, 2016 in Announcement, Community

What does it take to convince thinly stretched, understaffed newsrooms to release experienced reporters for three months to attend a data journalism program — and pay for the privilege, too? This was one of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome when planning for Code for South Africa’s new data journalism academy, which opened its doors in Cape Town on February 1.

academy

Happily, the first cohort has attracted seven experienced journalists from some of South Africa’s largest mainstream media outlets, as well as a journalism master’s student who was awarded a subsidized place. There is already interest from media in sending staff for the next cohort, and the plan is to do three annual courses of eight to 10 people over the next three years. The academy is supported by Code for Africa, Indigo Trust, the International Center for Journalists, Omidyar Network and School of Data.

The key that unlocked the doors to newsrooms is that everything the reporters produce will be fed back to – and owned by – their media houses to publish, sell or syndicate as they see fit. So, far from being lost to the newsroom, these reporters will remain productive and part of the newsroom.

The program consists of two weeks’ intensive training in the various steps in the data pipeline. Then participants will spend a further 10 weeks producing content as they use their newly learned skills working in a data newsroom alongside experienced data journalists, coders, wranglers and analysts.

We are planning to get our open-source curriculum certified by the South African Qualifications Agency — a long and arduous exercise — so that graduates will receive an officially recognized qualification. Equally important is that media houses will then be able to recoup a percentage of what they pay for training from the government authority that deals with industry skills and standards.

We have also begun a program of teaching trainers to deliver stand-alone modules of the curriculum to newsrooms in other parts of the country. This will help inculcate a culture of data-driven storytelling and provide a source of revenue for the academy.

Launching the academy is an important part of my work as an ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow helping to drive an Africa-wide initiative aimed at improving the lives of Africans through data journalism and civic innovation.

But it has been a hard sell. As head of the school, it was my task to convince hard-pressed editors and news editors, their newsrooms straining under budget and staff cuts and juniorization, that this was an investment worth making.

The academy was born out of a search for a program to complement journalism bootcamps where journalists who participate are afterward quickly drawn back into the grind of the daily news cycle and often not given the time or space to practice and develop their newly learned data skills.

We realized that to make a systemic change, we needed to seek innovative solutions. The answer, we believe, lies in creating a working environment where journalists could continue learning on the job while remaining productive and contributing to their newsrooms.

But the academy is about more than just training. It’s also a center for innovation where we can experiment and try out new and different ways of storytelling and reader engagement. The hard truth is that unless data journalism becomes a source of revenue, it will continue to be confined to bigger, better resourced media outlets with the work being done by small, specialized units working on the fringe of newsrooms.

So we will also use the academy’s newsroom as a living laboratory to experiment with different revenue models as we seek to make a business case for data journalism.

“The academy and the newsroom are one and the same, with the newsroom offering practical experience for journalists involved in the academy’s training program,” says Adi Eyal, director of Code for South Africa.

“We see every story as potentially an opportunity to innovate,” he said. “Just like we did with the award-winning Living on the Edge and the associated Living Wage tool, which pushed the envelope in the South African context with its convergence of different elements of storytelling, we see the academy as opening new opportunities to experiment. We want to explore and try new things that participants in the academy can feed back into their newsrooms and help push the industry forward.”

Code for South Africa created a Storify for more information. Check it out here.

Post originally published on the IJNET blog on 11 February 2016 and on the Code for South Africa blog on 12 February 2016.

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An Open Data Hackaton for School of Data Latvia

Cedric Lombion - March 10, 2016 in Announcement, Event report

Data Journalism has long been in the mind of Latvian journalists, but a lack of money and time has kept it from becoming an integral part of a newsroom daily life. It’s time to change it.

The Baltic Investigative Journalism Center “Re:Baltica” and Open Data Latvia joined forces to run an Open Data Hackathon on March 5th, with the goal of pushing journalists, civic activists and programmers to “hack” publicly available data together. This is at this occasion that School of Data Latvia launched, with the goal of sustaining the sparks of synergy between “techies” and “journos”.

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“This is the first major attempt to scale Data Journalism concept across Latvian newsrooms,” tells Nika Aleksejeva, the Head of School of Data Latvia. “Before there were a few investigations conducted by Re:Baltica that involved a heavy data analysis, but it was very rarely done by any regular newsroom. The common myth about Data Journalism here is that it’s something time consuming, expensive and requires special skills. After almost three years working with data journalists and trainers globally, I can assure, it’s not the case anymore. Media technology has evolved. Now data extraction, cleaning, analysis and visualization can be done by a regular person or in collaboration with skillful people. School of Data Latvia is here to show it to local journalists and civic activists.”

The hackathon participants were expected to produce a data-driven news headline, a visualization or an interactive application allowing the exploration of public data from a different perspective. As a result five data visualizations and two online tools were created.

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After a vote by the presents, a project that helped extracting data about public officials in digestible way was announced to be the best. Other projects covered topics like parliament deputy voting patterns, companies that win the most of Riga municipality tenders, offshore companies, foreign investment real estate deals, queues to doctors and how the amount of social budget can impact birth rate in Latvian regions.

“This is a great case study to show that the core of a data-driven story can be developed in a day,” comments Nika Aleksejeva.

The projects will be finished to get published on national media outlets and presented at the annual Latvian Journalism Conference on March 19.

The hackathon was supported by Infogr.am, Delfi.lv and Open Knowledge. See the images and watch the video, available with English subtitles.

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