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Introduction to Community Data Hubs Documentation

Published onJul 31, 2023
Introduction to Community Data Hubs Documentation

This is the first post for the Community Data Hubs Documentation series. This series will document the thought and conversation trajectories within the process of creating the building blocks of our Community Data Hubs model and OEDP’s broader data stewardship work. The first of these blogs will document the progress of the Community Data Hubs Advisory Group, which is working alongside OEDP to tackle conceptual questions related to the model, including social and technical infrastructures, stewardship, and community data.

Despite the growing number of climate and environmental crises, there are limited ways for people to engage in environmental decisions that will affect their communities. 

In response to climate and environmental injustices, communities have engaged in scientific monitoring and have campaigned to have this information included in regulatory, legal, and legislative processes. However, each community that collects data to share their experiences or demonstrate where environmental management is failing, has to navigate complex local, regional, and federal policies within dense regulatory and political landscapes. The information pipeline from collection and storage to sharing and use is not a clear path.

In a similar vein, data collected by regulatory agencies, academics, or mandated industry requirements are decontextualized and often do not reflect local values and cultural knowledge that is critical to meaningful policy or regulatory change. 

The result: community-driven data and efforts to provide context are tragically underutilized, ignored, or not incorporated into evidence used to make environmental decisions. 

The Community Data Hubs (CDH) prototype aims to co-design toward a socio-technological solution using evidence from our research in governance and policy, offering networked bridges for people to share information between communities or effectively interact with current systems. With the prototype, we aim to increase data usability for environmental governance in two ways: by (1) providing a place for communities to make collective decisions about their own data while also (2) modeling complementary data governance structures for sharing between communities, researchers, and government.

We will co-design this prototype, alongside our networks, through 2023 and 2024. This documentation series will follow several phases of the Community Data Hubs co-design process, including:

  • Summer 2023: Biweekly Conversations with the Advisory Group and two Environmental Data Labs 

  • Fall 2023 and Winter 2024: Design sessions with partners and Working Group members

  • Winter, Spring, and Summer 2024: Prototyping and follow-ups

  • Summer, Fall, and Winter 2024: Additional workshops

The first phase of the documentation series will catalog the conversations within the Community Data Hubs Advisory Group, which aims to tackle conceptual questions related to the model, including social and technical infrastructures, stewardship, and community data. The goal of meeting with the Advisory Group is to identify blindspots, move through the design process with intentionality, and dedicate attention to each aspect of the co-creation process. We refer to our blindspots as considerations and knowledges that we need assistance with unpacking and exploring; while OEDP has experience working at the intersections of data, open source practices, and environmental justice, there is always room to grow and learn from colleagues who have varied experiences and perspectives. 

The advisory group consists of four colleagues from our larger network who are working on projects that are similar or adjacent to our work and are able to provide varied perspectives from their respective fields. A list of advisory group members is available here. The advisory group meets every other week and often uses data scenarios as a way to explore 2-3 theoretical questions that are rooted in reality and practice.

This blog series will also be used to record the broader array of OEDP’s data stewardship work, not only Community Data Hubs. We are openly documenting this project and our thought and decision processes for several reasons, including: 

  • Increasing transparency and sharing knowledge: Good documentation provides a roadmap to reuse or adapt the building blocks of the documented model. We anticipate the end prototype as being something that could be adjusted and adapted to different contexts. As well, demonstrating thought processes during development allows for easier re-use and adaptations. 

  • A tool for co-design and accountability: Good documentation provides a roadmap of where we’ve been, not just where we can go. It will be an essential tool as we make new partners, approach new questions and critical junctions, and ultimately, better inform how we can co-design together. 

  • A better prototype: We are releasing our documentation as we design, and sharing it with our networks for feedback. We chose distribution methods that allow for comments; with PubPub, readers can annotate lines and comment, and with Medium, readers can highlight specific passages and comment on the piece as a whole. 

In the next blog, we will cover the running list of starter questions that we return to throughout the process, as well as a list of commonly used terms within the Community Data Hubs project.

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