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Introducing our partners (and our outreach process)

Published onFeb 28, 2024
Introducing our partners (and our outreach process)
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This is the twelfth post for the Community Data Hubs (CDH) Documentation series. This series documents the thought and working trajectories within the process of creating the building blocks of our CDH model and OEDP’s broader data stewardship work. This blog and the ones that follow will document our work with our three community partners as we workshop their environmental data governance questions, challenges, and find new opportunities within the CDH prototype.

This post documents the process of crafting our open call for community partners, conducting outreach, and creating selection criteria, and ends with a general introduction to our partners. This process spanned two and a half months—from the open call posting in early November 2023 to the final partner selection in mid-January 2024. 

Crafting our open call and outreach

In creating our open call, we sought to be as detailed as possible in describing the concepts, benefits, offerings, and expectations of this partnership. We provided potential data governance topics that could be explored, eligibility criteria, the expected timeline, and a list of FAQs

We decided to conduct outreach with an open call, which included an Expression of Interest form. This method was suggested during our meetings with the advisory group last summer as a way to gauge interest in the broader community and potentially connect with unknown organizations. The form was distributed via social media and our newsletter, and we conducted targeted outreach to organizations with whom we had existing relationships through past collaboration or colleague connections. We held introductory calls with approximately ten organizations who had interest in participating. On these calls we shared more information on the CDH model and our goals for the process. We also worked to understand what kind of data each organization collected, stored, and/or shared, what their goals were with the data, and what kinds of governance challenges exist currently with the data.

Our selection criteria was categorized into four categories: 

  1. Geography: We had a preference to work with at least two community partners in the United States, but in different regions so as to examine differing contexts. We also considered working with one partner located outside of the United States, in order to provide a case that could compare and contrast with domestic approaches.

  2. Community ownership and engagement: The Community Data Hubs concept prioritizes community ownership and values the representation of community needs in social and technical data infrastructures. Because of this, it was important for us to partner with organizations that have a local or regional focus and sustained engagement (conversations, services, programs) with community members who are interested in environmental data.

  3. Data governance questions and issues: We aimed to focus on social and legal aspects of governance rather than technical aspects, i.e. we cannot answer questions on how to technically build a platform, but we can examine the design aspects around accessibility, privacy, and sharing, that might need to be considered during development. While we recognize there will always be some degree of overlap with technical infrastructures, we are currently best positioned to address the social, policy-oriented, and legal aspects of data governance and how they intersect with digital infrastructures. 

  4. Clarity of impact: We had a preference to work with an organization that had between one and three priority data governance questions or challenges. For example, a data governance question or challenge might include how to set up guidance related to data ownership/sovereignty or how to set up a data sharing agreement with a local university. Focusing on fewer questions allows for issues to be examined thoroughly in a short workshop format. We were looking for organizations with questions that would require more than desk research and challenges that would benefit from facilitated conversation with organization staff, community participants, and OEDP.

These outreach conversations clarified how each organization might benefit from the partnership and if this was the right time for partnership. From these conversations, and in consideration of the selection criteria above, we found three organizations that we felt would have the highest potential impact for both parties.

Introduction to our partners

We are excited to partner with the following organizations for our 2024 Community Data Hubs workshops: Centre of Research for Transformation in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Community Health Aligning Revitalization Resilience and Sustainability in Atlanta, Georgia; and Self-Help Enterprises in Visalia, California.

Research Centre for Transformation / CoAct 

The Research Centre for Transformation at the University of San Martin (UNSAM) works in collaboration with the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) to maintain the ¿Qué pasa, Riachuelo? (QPR) social citizen science tool as a coordinated project called CoAct. This tool collects and displays data on water quality and the uses and perceptions of natural areas in the Matanza-Riachuelo basin. These organizations aim to promote synergies between scientists and academic researchers working in the basin, communities and organizations interested in environmental education, and decision makers in the region.

Fig 1. A screenshot of the QPR map that displays observational water quality data across the Matanza-Riachuelo basin.

In the design workshop, OEDP will work with partners from UNSAM and FARN to examine one or several  of the following issues: (1) how to translate data governance complexities to non-academic stakeholders, (2) how to create simple ways of building and translating a governance structure so that the public can be involved, (3) how to create governance structures that are flexible to different roles and changes over time, and (4) how you reach agreements between stakeholders with different values and goals. 

Community Health Aligning Revilization Resilience and Sustainability (CHARRS)

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, CHARRS is currently collecting hyper-local air quality data using reference and handheld monitors. CHARRS is developing and involved in multiple projects, including PROJECT REMOVE and AQEarth, across which they seek to expand data accessibility to environmental justice nonprofits and community members. 

In the design workshop, CHARRS will be working in collaboration with the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA), where they will explore the following issues: understanding the governance and stewardship issues related to creating a regional platform for environmental justice data, determining a strategy to communicate data governance topics in environmental justice grant writing, and how to meaningfully convert CSV file data to different kinds of data products or visualizations to expand accessibility.

Self-Help Enterprises

Self-Help Enterprises is a community development organization located in Visalia, California, whose mission is to work with low-income families in the San Joaquin Valley in order to build and sustain healthy homes and communities. We’ll specifically be working with their Emergency Services team, which conducts domestic well assessments, tests water quality, and provides interim water access and/or filtration services. They often experience challenges sharing this domestic well data with various agencies and entities (e.g. California Water Resources Control Board) while also maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of the domestic well users. 

In the design workshop, OEDP will work with Self-Help Enterprises to explore the general governance side of their data platform under development and the differing requirements with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Next steps

We are currently working on the next phase of the Community Data Hubs project, which entails organizing partnership logistics ahead of the design workshops, as well as preparing for initial planning meetings that will be held with each organization in early March. These meetings will delineate high level goals, as well as what minimum, target, and epic success looks like—with comparable and achievable metrics. We recognize that we have limited time with each organization, so these planning meetings will be essential to ensure that we are using a shared lexicon so as to accurately understand the priority challenges and make the most of the design workshop.

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