Empowering leaders to develop a data re-use strategy for solving public problems

“This course was an incredible opportunity to learn from experienced peers, receive mentorship from academic and industry experts, and set strategy for a post-pandemic world, where public institutions need to set priorities and answer questions with data.”

-- Christine Keung, Former Chief Data Officer, Mayor’s Office on Technology and Innovation, City of San Jose

The biggest opportunities and challenges of the data age lay not only in preventing misuse of data, but also in facilitating its re-use for the public interest. Data collaboration is hard, developing ethical processes and standards for data use is imperative, and human adoption of data-driven practices is slow-moving. Indispensable in addressing all these challenges: data stewards.

Are you searching for ways to access data to drive impact? Or do you manage data that you believe could be more powerful if shared?

The GovLab and Microsoft, as a part of the Open Data Policy Lab, offer a variety of courses as a part of the Data Stewards Academy. Course participants come from diverse industries across the private, public, nonprofit and academic sectors and from geographic regions around the world.

The Executive Education Course is an eight-week course for leaders in their field to learn, network and receive coaching to develop a data re-use strategy. The course is free, and participants are selected based on the strength of their applications and qualifications. This is a competitive opportunity for a limited 20 slots available in each course offering.

At the end of the experience, all course graduates will be invited to join the Data Stewards Academy’s community of alumni via the Data Stewards Society, an exclusive and esteemed network of data stewards around the world. The Data Stewards Society provides opportunities for networking, discussion on emerging trends and guest speakers for alumni to engage on a monthly basis.

All courses are virtual, held in English and gather twice a week for two and a half hours at a time on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 9am-12pm in the Eastern Time Zone unless otherwise specified.

The Data Stewards Academy typically offers a few courses per year. The best way to stay informed about courses and application opportunities is to join the Data Stewards Network newsletter by signing up here:

join the Data Stewards Network newsletter

Program Learning Goals

  • Empower you to solve public problems through systemic, sustainable, and responsible data re-use
  • Provide you with a powerful toolkit to draft a data re-use strategy that seeks to address public needs
  • Introduce the latest tools and technologies for use in designing, implementing and managing policies and services
  • Enable you to pursue more purposeful, demand-driven partnerships and collaborations with a broad and inter-sectoral group of actors
  • Guide you on the best ways to mitigate risks and promote responsible data practices
  • Ensure you can translate data into insights and insights into meaningful action

Program Outline

To ensure the successful progression into the third wave of open data where data is made available for re-use in a collaborative and responsible manner, it is necessary to broaden our range of skills and expertise in the realm of data. We need new and innovative ways to make data accessible to solve real-world problems and drive progress. This requires a shift from simply making data available to finding ways to connect data supply with demand in a meaningful way.

The Data Stewards Academy Executive Education course will help data stewards—responsible data leaders in the public, private sector, nonprofit or academic sector—develop an end-to-end data re-use strategy to solve public problems. Noting the ways data resources can inform their day-to-day and strategic decision-making, we engage with participants on ways they can re-use data to pursue goals in the public’s interests, and improve how they operate. By working differently—using agile methods and data analytics–data stewards can further open data and reduce data access inequities in ways that advance their institution’s goals.

When seeking to innovate and establish new practices, it helps to learn and connect with those who have done it before. As part of this course, participants will have the opportunity to visit leading organizations and meet existing data stewards to learn from their approach to data re-use. Previous cohorts had the chance to learn from teams at Microsoft, Mastercard, DIGI Taiwan, Sage Bionetworks, Telefonica, and LinkedIn to name a few.

The learning modules are as follows:

In this introductory session, we review the evolution of data and data re-use, looking at how data has been used to solve public problems. Through the framework of the three waves of open data, participants will learn about how views of data use and re-use have changed over time, the impact data re-use has made, and major challenges facing the field.

Following a discussion of the history of the open data movement, we will discuss current approaches to data re-use around the world. We will then shift to the failures of current approaches and the need of current approaches and the need to shift from ad hoc engagements to more systematic, sustainable, and responsible models. We will introduce the role of a data steward, and how they can promote the responsible, systematic and sustainable re-use of data.

After providing the conceptual framework for discussion, we will discuss the first step in a data re-use project: understanding the problem an organization intends to solve and for whom; and how that translates into questions data can answer. Participants will learn approaches for quickly researching complex problems, assessing public interest in identified problems, and segmenting these potential stakeholders according to interests and needs. Using experiences from The GovLab’s 100 Questions Initiative, this session will also describe participatory problem definition, topic mapping and how to formulate effective research questions.

Data re-use requires both relevant data resources and technical capacity. This session will teach participants how to assess both. In the first part of the session, we will explain how participants can find useful data in their organization and outside it. Participants will learn how to conduct data audits, map the location of relevant assets among partner organizations (e.g. companies, nonprofits, and academia), and make use of open data platforms. In the latter part of the session, participants will learn the value of internal capacity reviews and receive recommendations on how they can build internal support for data projects. These explanations will be informed by real-world examples.

Before we bring demand and supply together, it can be helpful to understand the value proposition behind data sharing. This session includes information on the societal and business cases underlying data re-use, as well as the latent risks that exist in the data lifecycle. We will explore tools that can help you measure the costs and benefits of your data re-use project, as well as methods to avoid misusing data. We will also briefly look at the environmental footprint and other externalities of data initiatives.

Building off of our previous sessions focused on demand and supply, we look at how to bring the two sides together. This session will introduce you to different models of data collaboration and how to identify a fit-for-purpose collaborative model for your project. We will also look at the technical aspects of governing a data collaborative, including existing governance frameworks and the role of data-sharing agreements, as well as the technological infrastructure needed to build a sustainable collaborative.

Once you’ve established your data collaborative, it is important to understand its impact on the challenge you initially sought to address and the ecosystem as a whole. This session looks at the use of logic models to measure impact. For a data steward, impact measurement can play a big role in ensuring the sustainability of your project in the form of investment and organizational buy-in.

Data re-use projects can address public problems but their potential is best realized when they can be maintained in the long term. As such, organizations need to make changes in how they operate, ensuring they are positioned to take advantage of future cross-sector data collaborations. In this session, we will demonstrate that systematic, sustainable, and responsible data re-use can be best realized through the creation of a data steward position within an organization. The session will discuss how this role can coordinate efforts investigating where relevant data is, who has it, who needs it, and how it can best be used to tackle the problem. It will also discuss the role of the data steward in assessing human infrastructure, telling organizations what their gaps are and who they need to collaborate with and the priority they should assign to these relationships.

Course Details



The Executive Education course will be taught in an interactive, online group setting. All session are taught by Open Data Policy Lab staff and Guest Faculty with both academic and real world experience. The GovLab team is committed to making adjustments to meet the needs of course participants within reason. Details about the course can be found below and in the FAQs.

  • Time Commitment: This course consists of two and a half hour classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays (five hours per week) over the course of eight weeks. There are two scheduled one week breaks for a total ten week span for the program. All participants are expected to be active participants in the course to support peer learning and maximize the experience with guest faculty and virtual site visits.
  • Timing: Courses will take place between 9am-12pm in the Eastern Time Zone unless otherwise specified.
  • Synchronous vs Asynchronous: All courses take place live and course participants are expected to be able to attend all live courses. Optional readings and mandatory assignments and assignment coaching will take place asynchronously.
  • Assignments: Assignments will be shared weekly and are meant to further course participants’ progress in the development of their data re-use strategy. Assignments are not expected to take more than one hour weekly to complete.
  • Software Logistics: Courses will all take place over Zoom, documents and resources will be shared as PDFs or Google Documents and course collaboration will take place over Slack.
  • Language: The course and all affiliated programming take place in English; course participants are expected to speak and write in English and have proficiency enough to participate in the courses and engage with peers.

“With the Data Stewards Executive Program, I was able to bootstrap our data-sharing project into a more cohesive, real-world solution to tackle collaboration among organizations.”

-- Jorge Alvarado, Chief Technology Officer at Swisscom Blockchain

Application Process and Costs

Criteria for Participation:

  • Applicants must apply and participate in the course in a professional capacity;
  • Participation is at the individual level (not for teams);
  • Applicants must be working professionals holding a managerial or other senior role;
  • Course participants must be prepared to submit assignments for review, as such assignments are necessary to develop a data collaboration and re-use strategy during the course;
  • Individuals must have capacity to attend all sessions in the 8-week course; courses take place virtually between 9am–12pm Eastern Time Zone Tuesdays and Thursdays; and
  • The course and all affiliated programming take place in English; course participants are expected to speak and write in English and have proficiency enough to participate in the courses and engage with peers.

Application Process:
The Data Stewards Academy currently offers a few Data Stewards Academy Course offerings per year. The best way to stay informed about course application opportunities is to sign-up for our Data Stewards Network newsletter.

As part of our application process, we ask for the following information::

  • Resume
  • Letter of Support from a representative in your organization
  • Name
  • Email address
  • Organization Affiliation
  • Title
  • Country & Timezone
  • How does your current position and mandate relate to this course? 300 word limit
  • Tell us what you can about the data re-use strategy you are looking to develop over the course of the executive program; we recognize this may only be an idea at this time but welcome any thoughts and details you can provide. 300 word limit

Course Cost:
This is a free course thanks to the Open Data Policy Lab’s support by Microsoft. While the program is free, we do limit the course participation to a maximum of twenty participants to maintain a high-quality experience for everyone involved and to foster intimate peer to peer learning via discussion.

“I highly recommend the Data Stewardship Executive Education course. The lectures, the speakers and the visits to different Data Offices were exceptionally well curated. It is also a great opportunity for networking and discussing with peer about problems and challenges that all Data Stewards face in our daily work.”

-- Juliana Outes Velarde, Data Steward, Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab), Oxford University

Guest Faculty

Data Stewards Academy guest faculty are experts in their fields and based in organizations around the world. Depending on the thematic focus of a Data Stewards Academy course, different guest faculty will be asked to present and speak with course participants. If you are interested in being considered as guest faculty for a future course, please contact [email protected]



“As the saying goes, ‘In a world befogged by superficiality, moments of clarity are few and far between.’ The executive data stewardship course by GovLab offers that rare and special light bulb moment. The organization of the course was excellent and choice of facilitators exceptional. In just a few weeks, we gained knowledge and practical skills and a deeper meaning and understanding of what data stewardship is and learnt how as leaders we can develop data re-use strategies to solve public problems.”

-- Eva Muluve, Research Fellow, Population Council —Kenya

Course Partners

The Data Stewards Academy has offered a diverse array of courses thus far, including Executive Education programs that are tailored to different global regions to account for cultural differences.
Additionally, the Academy has run a City Incubator program specifically designed for data stewards working in municipal governments. We have also collaborated with organizations to create customized courses for specific communities, employees, and networks.
If you are looking to create a unique Data Stewards course for your community, we would be happy to assist you. Please contact [email protected].
Current and prior partners for Data Stewards Academy courses include:

Frequently Asked Questions