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The Future of School of Data

- June 15, 2015 in community, School_Of_Data, Update

School of Data World

The School of Data World: Local School of Data, Other organisations implementing School of Data activities and fellows!

Over the last few years, School of Data has seen impressive development and growth, going from a simple idea to an internationally recognised data literacy programme which has trained thousands of people, worked with dozens of CSOs and has multiple regional instances. School of Data was conceived in early 2012 by Open Knowledge in collaboration with Philip Schmidt of P2PU and the project was officially launched to the public in January 2013. Since then, it has grown to be an amazing network of data literacy practitioners, both organizations and individuals, implementing training and other data literacy activities in their country or region. Our local implementing partners are Social TICCfAfrica, Metamorphosis, and several Open Knowledge chapters including Spain, Brazil, France, Greece and more. In addition, we have worked in many countries thorough our dedicated fellows. The Growth of School of Data We have also worked with multiple funding partners including the Shuttleworth Foundation, Open Society Foundations, the Hewlett Foundation, Hivos, the International Development Research Centre, the World Bank and more. Finally, we have also had the opportunity to collaborate with literally dozens of CSOs, governments and other institutions both in developing materials, doing investigations, and providing training.

A network owned by its members

Members of School of Data work to empower civil society organizations, journalists, governments and citizens with the skills they need to use data effectively in their efforts to create better, more equitable and more sustainable societies. Our members truly make School of Data unique! After nearly 3 years of growth and shared successes, the time has come to formally recognise the growing array of School of Data partners and stakeholders and share ownership and decision making of School of Data with them. We are very happy to announce that we have started the journey towards transitioning the ownership of the School of Data by establishing a governance structure. After intensive meetings, debates and voting during our last Summer Camp in Ottawa, the School of Data members elected a Steering Group and empowered them to represent the entire network, manage shared assets like the School of Data brand and fundraise for the network going forward. Our newly elected Steering Committee members are:
  • Juan Manuel Casanueva, Director of Social TIC
  • Bardhyl Jashari, Director of Metamorphosis, Macedonia
  • Natalia Mazotte, Programme Manager of School of Data Brazil
  • Sander van der Waal, Projects Director at Open Knowledge International
  • Antonio Cucho Gamboa, Senior School of Data fellow and Open Data Activist in Peru
Congratulations to our brand new and amazing Steering Committee!

Congratulations to our brand new and amazing Steering Committee!

The Steering Committee is supported by the School of Data coordination team whose work remains invaluable in managing programmes and running data literacy activities in close collaboration with our local partners. Legally, School of Data will still be homed at Open Knowledge, who remains a key stakeholder. However, the goal of having a governance structure is to ensure long term sustainability and empower our community to participate in School of Data’s development.

What’s next?

The Steering Group and the School of Data coordination team have a lot of work ahead, especially as they establish this new model. One of their most important priorities is to set up a membership scheme and define a clear process to join the School of Data network. We already have the basic principles of a membership model:
  • We strive for autonomy for our local partners and trust in our members
  • We will be united by shared values and passion for data literacy
  • We will continue to develop materials with open licence to encourage anyone to use, re-use and re-distribute them
  • Membership will be determined by shared values, intention to become a member and contribution to the network
  • The membership will be continuously validated though feedback and some quality control mechanisms
  • The benefits of membership are, among others, shared knowledge and projects, visibility and brand, peer support and solidarity and a vote for the steering committee or representation in decision making
Do you want to become a School of Data member? Please get in touch – this is the perfect time for us to explore new frontiers and build the foundations of an amazing network of data literacy practitioners around the world! Flattr this!

School of Data retreat roundup

- November 5, 2014 in Events, School_Of_Data

scodaretreat 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! flattr this!

Mapping Skillshare with Codrina

- October 10, 2014 in community, Events, Fellowships, Geocoding, HowTo, Mapping, School_Of_Data

Why maps are useful visualization tools? What doesn’t work with maps? Today we hosted a School of Data skillshare with Codrina Ilie, School of data Fellow.

Codrina Ilie shares perspectives on building a map project

What makes a good map? How can perspective, assumptions and even colour change the quality of the map? This is a one-hour video skillshare to learn all about map making from our School of Data fellow:

Learn some basic mapping skills with slides

Codrina prepared these slides with some extensive notes and resources. We hope that it helps you on your map journey.
Hand drawn map


(Note: the hand drawn map was created at School of Data Summer Camp. Photo by Heather Leson CCBY) flattr this!

Data for Social Change in South Africa

- September 29, 2014 in community, Data Blog, Data Expeditions, Data for CSOs, Data Journalism, School_Of_Data

We recently kicked off our first local Code for South Africa School of Data workshops in Johannesburg and Cape Town for journalists and civil society respectively. I arrived in the vibrant Maboneng district in central Johannesburg excited (and a little nervous) about helping my fellow school of Data Fellow Siyabonga facilitate our first local workshop with media organisations The Con and Media Monitoring Africa. Although I’ve attended a data workshop this was my first experience of being on the other end and it was an incredible learning experience. Siya did a fantastic job of leading the organisations in defining and conceptualising their data projects that they’ll be working on over the course of the rest of the year and I certainly borrowed and learned a lot from his workshop format. It was great to watch more experienced facilitators, Jason from Code for South Africa and Michael from The School of Data, work their magic and share their expert knowledge on more advanced tools and techniques for working with and presenting data and see the attendees eyes light up at the possibilities and potential applications of their data.
Johannesburg sunset

Johannesburg sunset at the workshop venue

A few days later we found ourselves back in the thick of things giving the second workshop in Cape Town for civil society organisations Black Sash and Ndifuna Ukwazi. I adapted Siyabonga’s workshop format slightly, shifting the emphasis from journalism to advocacy and effecting social change for our civil society attendees. We started off examining the broader goals of the organisation and worked backwards to identify where and how data can help them achieve their goals, as data for data’s sake in isolation is meaningless and our aim is to help them produce meaningful data projects that make a tangible contribution to their goals.
The team from Ndifuna Ukwazi at work

The team from Ndifuna Ukwazi at work

We then covered some general data principles and skills like the data pipeline and working with spreadsheets and easy-to-use tools like Datawrapper and, as well as some more advanced (and much needed) data cleaning using Open Refine as well as scraping data using Tabula which the teams found extremely useful, having been manually typing out information from pdfs up until this point. Both organisations arrived with the data they wanted to work with at hand and it immediately became apparent that it needed a lot of cleaning. The understanding the organisations gained around working with data allowed them to reexamine the way they collect and source data, particularly for Black Sash who realised they need to redesign their surveys they use. This will be an interesting challenge over the next few months as the survey re-design will still need to remain compatible with the old survey formats to be useful for comparison and analysis and I hope to be able to draw on the experience and expertise of the School of Data network to come up with a viable solution.

Siya working his magic with the Black Sash team

By the end of the workshop both organisations had produced some visualisations using their data and had a clear project plan of how they want to move forward, which I think is a great achievement! I was blown away by the enthusiasm and work ethic of the attendees and I’m looking forward to working with them over the next few months and helping them produce effective data projects that will contribute to more inclusive, equitable local governance.   flattr this!

Data Visualization and Design – Skillshare

- September 26, 2014 in community, Events, Fellowships, HowTo, resources, School_Of_Data, Storytelling, visualisation

Observation is 99 % of great design. We were recently joined by School of Data/Code for South Africa Fellow Hannah Williams for a skillshare all about the data visualization and design. We all know dataviz plays a huge part in our School of Data workshops as a fundamental aspect of the data pipeline. But how do you know that, beyond using D3 or the latest dataviz app, you are helping people actually communicate visually? In this 40 minute video, Hannah shares some tips and best practices:

Design by slides

The world is a design museum – what existing designs achieve similar things? How specifically do they do this? How can this inform your digital storytelling?


Want to learn more? Here are some great resources from Hannah and the network: Hannah shared some of her other design work. It is great to see how data & design can be used in urban spaces: Project Busart.
We are planning more School of Data Skillshares. In the coming weeks, there will be sessions about impact & evaluation as well as best practices for mapping. flattr this!

A Weekend of Data, Hacks and Maps in Nigeria

- September 16, 2014 in charity data, Data Cleaning, Data Expeditions, event, Mapping, maps, School_Of_Data, spreadsheets, visualisation

It was another weekend of hacking for good all around the world, and Abuja, Nigeria was not left out of the weekend of good, as 30 participants gathered at the Indigo Trust funded space of Connected Development [CODE], scraping datasets, brainstorming creating technology for good, and not leaving one thing out – talking soccer (because it was a weekend, and Nigeria “techies” love soccer especially the English premiership).
Participants at the Hack4Good 2014 in Nigeria

Participants at the Hack4Good 2014 in Nigeria

Leading the team, was Dimgba Kalu (Software Architect with Integrated Business Network and founder TechNigeria), who kick started the 3 day event that was built around 12 coders with other 18 participants that worked on the Climate Change adaptation stream of this year #Hack4Good. So what data did we explore and what was hacked over the weekend in Nigeria? Three streams were worked :
  1. Creating a satellite imagery tagging/tasking system that can help the National Space Research Development Agency deploy micromappers to tag satellite imageries from the NigeriaSat1 and NigeriaSat2
  2. Creating an i-reporting system that allows citizen reporting during disasters to Nigeria Emergency Management Agency
  3. Creating an application that allows citizens know the next water point and its quality within their community and using the newly released dataset from the Nigeria Millennium Development Goal Information System on water points in the country.
Looking at the three systems that was proposed to be developed by the 12 coders, one thing stands out, that in Nigeria application developers still find it difficult to produce apps that can engage citizens – a particular reason being that Nigerians communicate easily through the radio, followed by SMS as it was confirmed while I did a survey during the data exploration session.
Coders Hackspace

Coders Hackspace

Going forward, all participants agreed that incorporating the above medium (Radio and SMS) and making games out of these application could arouse the interest of users in Nigeria.  “It doesn’t mean that Nigerian users are not interested in mobile apps, what we as developers need is to make our apps more interesting” confirmed Jeremiah Ageni, a participant. The three days event started with the cleaning of the water points data, while going through the data pipelines, allowing the participants to understand how these pipelines relates to mapping and hacking. While the 12 hackers were drawn into groups, the second day saw thorough hacking – into datasets and maps! Some hours into the second day, it became clear that the first task wouldn’t be achievable; so much energy should be channelled towards the second and third task.
SchoolofData Fellow - Oludotun Babayemi taking on the Data Exploration session

SchoolofData Fellow – Oludotun Babayemi taking on the Data Exploration session

Hacking could be fun at times, when some other side attractions and talks come up – Manchester United winning big (there was a coder, that was checking every minutes and announcing scores)  , old laptops breaking (seems coders in Abuja have old  ones), coffee and tea running out (seems we ran out of coffee, like it was a sprint), failing operating systems (interestingly, no coders in the house had a Mac operating system), fear of power outage (all thanks to the power authority – we had 70 hours of uninterrupted power supply) , and no encouragement from the opposite sex (there was only two ladies that strolled into the hack space).
Bring on the energy to the hackspace

Bring on the energy to the hackspace

As the weekend drew to a close, coders were finalizing and preparing to show their great works.  A demo and prototype of streams 2 and 3 were produced. The first team (working on stream 2), that won the hackathon developed EMERGY, an application that allows citizens to send geo-referenced reports disasters such as floods, oil spills, deforestation to the National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria, and also create a situation awareness on disaster tagged/prone communities, while the second team, working on stream 3, developed KNOW YOUR WATER POINT an application that gives a geo-referenced position of water points in the country. It allows communities; emergency managers and international aid organizations know the next community where there is a water source, the type, and the condition of the water source.
(The winning team of the Hack4Good Nigeria) From Left -Ben; Manga; SchoolofData Fellow -Oludotun Babayemi; Habib; Chief Executive, CODE - Hamzat

(The winning team of the Hack4Good Nigeria) From Left -Ben; Manga; SchoolofData Fellow -Oludotun Babayemi; Habib; Chief Executive, CODE – Hamzat

Living with coders all through the weekend, was mind blowing, and these results and outputs would not be scaled without its challenges. “Bringing our EMERGY application live as an application that cuts across several platforms such as java that allows it to work on feature phones can be time consuming and needs financial and ideology support” said Manga, leader of the first team. Perhaps, if you want to code, do endeavour to code for good!   flattr this!

Video: School of Data Summer Camp

- September 15, 2014 in community, Events, Fellowships, Impact Case Study, School_Of_Data, Summer Camp

We’re proud to share a video all about School of Data. In 5 minutes, you will learn about School of Data with introductions to School of Data Network members, Fellows and staff. You will get a window into the spirit of School of Data Summer Camp 2014.
About School of Data Summer Camp
The School of Data Summer Camp brought together local initiatives and School of Data Fellows to build the foundation for a buzzing and productive coming year. Last year we kicked off a Spanish, French, Portuguese and Greek site as well as local initiatives around the world. On a more individual level we’ve been working with fellows worldwide to bring data skills to their communities. With a new round of fellows coming we want to get together and unify our vision, goals and methods. Our goal was to make everyone go home with better skills and a clear vision where we’ll take the School of Data together! (Video Created by Sam Muirhead of Camera Libre) flattr this!

Dispatch from India: Intro to Data Journalism Workshop in Bangalore

- September 12, 2014 in bangalore, Data Journalism, india, School of Data, School_Of_Data

This post is crossposted from, an organization that promotes open data in India. Sunday, August 31st, DataMeet worked with an Economic Times Journalist Jayadevan PK with support from School of Data, to design an intro to data journalism workshop. For a while now there has been quite a bit of interest and discussion of data journalism in India. Currently there are a few courses and events around promoting data journalism, we thought there was definitely room to start to build a few modules on working with data for storytelling. Given that we have not done too many of these we decided to do an introduction and leave it limited to a few people. Datameet1

You can see the agenda with notes here and the resources we shared on the data journalism resource wiki page, as well as refer to the data catalog that DataMeet has been putting together.

Thanks to Knolby Media for hosting us and for School of Data for the support. Thank you to Vikras Mishra for volunteering and taking notes, pictures, and video.

We had four story tellers with us, from various backgrounds. We spent the morning doing introduction and what was their experience with data, what their definition of data journalism is and why they wanted to take this workshop. Then we had them put up some expectations so we can gauge what the afternoon should focus on.


We then had Jaya go through the context of data journalism in terms of the world scale and the new digital journalism era. Then we spent some time going over examples of good data journalism and bad.

After we went through resources people can use to get data. We touched upon the legal issues around using data and copyright issues. Then we discussed accuracy and how to properly attribute sources.

Then we demonstrated a few tools

Datameet 5

Tableau CartoDB Scraping tools - Scraper wikiIMACROS MapBox QGIS Visualization Roadmap The participants thought understanding how to visualize would be helpful.  So we went through a sort of visualization roadmap.  Then went through stories they were working on to see how we would create a visualization and also how to examine the data and come up with a data strategy for each story. Datameet 6 20140831_155126

Then showed some more tools to address the suggestions from the exercise. - BHUVANTimelinesOdysseyFusion TablesBUMP

Feedback session


People wanted another day to let the lessons be absorbed and some more time to actually have hands on time with the tools.  Also even at the intro level it is important to make people come prepared with stories, so they have something to apply the ideas to. To say we learned a lot is an understatement. We will definitely be planning more intro workshops and hopefully more advanced workshops in the future, we hope to continue to learn what people think is important and will keep track and see what kinds of stories come out of these learning session.   flattr this!

How to: Network Mapping Builds Community

- September 10, 2014 in community, community building, Fellows, HowTo, Open Data, School_Of_Data

Who is in your network? Who are your stakeholders? Network Mapping can help you plan, grow and sustain your organization. Nisha Thompson of and a School of Data Fellow shares her Network Mapping Skills in this 40 minute video. See the accompanying slides and resources below.

Network Mapping Resources:

Here are some resources provided by Nisha and the team to get you started on your Network Mapping journey:

Network Mapping – Nisha Thompson

We’ll be hosting more School of Data Fellow Skillshares in the coming weeks. See our wiki for more details. flattr this!

Dispatch: School of Data Summer Camp

- July 29, 2014 in community, Events, maps, School_Of_Data

Close your eyes and imagine an inviting space that you can connect, learn and share with new colleagues from around the world. What would that look like? Well, at School of Data we dreamed big to deliver an amazing event in collaboration with so many people. We are still reflecting but would consider it a successful first School of Data Summer Camp. SCODASummerCamp02 The School of Data Summer Camp was held on July 18 – 21, 2014 at Villa Adlon in Potsdam, Germany. There we collaborated to build School of Data with all the participants: partners, network leaders, local instances, fellows, senior fellows, funders, special guests and staff. The 4-day event with 47 people focused on individual and community growth with participatory activities in a programme consisting of conversations, documenting, skillshares, brainstorming, networking, and gamestorming.
Here is a small window into the spirit of Summer Camp:
(Video by Social Tic’s Juan Manual Casanueva)

Thank you

The house, lake, gardens and complete environment provided a perfect setting to unite people for School of Data Summer Camp. We would like to extend a very special thanks to our host Mathilda Huss of Villa Adlon. She generously provided the beautiful location. Special thanks goes to our funders who made all of this possible: Partnership for Open Data (World Bank, Open Data Institute, and Open Knowledge), Hewlett Foundation, Open Society Foundations, IndigoTrust, the British Embassy Skopje, Hivos, and SEATTI. We are all taking a much needed rest and then will begin to share more about the next steps for School of Data. Thanks again to everyone who made School of Data Summer camp so special. flattr this!