The Data Stewards Academy Executive Education Course is making cities better, one leader (and many datasets) at a time

screenshot 0f 2023 cohort

Participants in the Data Stewards Academy Executive Education Course

Most of us are familiar with the definition of stewardship: the responsible management of something entrusted to one's care. But what is involved in becoming a steward of data, and why is that role so important — especially in the world’s cities, where some 4.4 billion people currently live and where by 2050 that number is expected to double?

Stefaan Verhulst, the Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer of the GovLab, an initiative incubated at NYU Tandon, as well as Director of the GovLab's Data Program and a Research Professor at Tandon's Center for Urban Science and Progress, explains that as cities grow and evolve, the role of data in urban environments will grow along with it. Change is already happening: data is becoming both more plentiful and more accessible, and it’s being used more frequently to inform public policy. Yet, as Verhulst has explained, many data initiatives — for instance open data, data collaboratives, and other models — never scale beyond pilots. “Collectively, we need to move into a third wave of open data,” he asserts. “It is more important than ever to be strategic and purposeful, to find new ways to connect the demand for data with its supply to meet institutional objectives in a systematic, sustainable and socially responsible way.” In other words — to be good stewards.

To that end, the GovLab offers the Data Stewards Academy Executive Education Course, an accelerated learning program designed to support emerging global leaders across sectors in developing a data stewardship and re-use strategy that will help to solve the public challenges facing them — whether those involve universal health care, waste management, economics, or a host of other issues relevant to running safe, resilient, liveable cities — a key area of focus at Tandon.

This year’s cohort represented 16 different countries, including Brazil, Canada, the Philippines, South Africa, and Switzerland, and members met virtually for eight weeks to address such questions as:

  • How has data and data re-use evolved over the last few decades? What new challenges and opportunities lie ahead? 

  • What role do data stewards play and how can they promote the responsible, systemic and sustainable re-use of data? 

  • Where can data be procured and how?

  • What tools are needed if data is to be leveraged for the public good?

Members of the cohort gave their final presentations at an event keynote by Claudia Juech of Bloomberg Philanthropies, who noted that government innovation depends in large part of the skillful harnessing of data but that with new tools and abilities come new questions involving ethics and privacy.

Participants displayed a savvy grasp of those issues as they discussed their specific projects, which ranged from tackling the sustainability issues posed by rampant tourism to addressing the problems of delivering basic services to farflung settlements and preventing domestic abuse.

They finished the course with the knowledge to unlock the inherent value of data and the insights it can provide, the skills to manage it ethically, and an invitation to join the Data Stewards Society — a GovLab-run network of dozens of leaders in their respective fields.

The 2023 Cohort

  • Ana Carolina Benelli, Director, Linked Data, Brazil
  • Antigoni Karaiskou, Senior Sustainability & Physics Engineer, Buro Happold, United Kingdom
  • Cleiton Silva, Federal Auditor of Finance and Control, Brazilian Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), Brazil 
  • Daffodil Santillan, Data Associate, Action for Economic Reforms, Philippines
  • Ernest Kwan, Head of the Data and Analytics Branch, City of Winnipeg Water and Waste Department, Canada
  • Jonas Bärtschi, Scientific Researcher, Bern University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland 
  • Karim Hussein Dasuki, Innovation Cluster Manager, I-Cluster, Colombia
  • Madison Mackley, PhD Student, University of Toronto, Canada 
  • Majaha Diamini, Urban Data Manager, South African Cities Network, South Africa
  • Mandar Sunil Athavale, Co-Founder, Basera Center for Innovation and Governance, India
  • Marijana Novak, Data Lead, Circle Economy, Netherlands
  • Marisa Miodosky, Gender Equality Strategy Leader, Buenos Aires City Statistics Bureau, Argentina 
  • Nyeleti Mahlaule, Chief Specialist - Knowledge Management, City of Ekurhuleni Metro, South Africa
  • Oluomachukwu Omeje, Program Manager, Nigeria Health Watch, Nigeria 
  • Pierre Renault, Data Project Leader - Data Department, Rennes Métropole, France
  • Ricardo Mirón, Technical Lead, United Nations Development Programme - Digital Public Goods Alliance, Mexico 
  • Sajid Mahmud, Head of Legal and Privacy Officer, Sensiv Laboratories, Bangladesh 
  • Sithar Norbu, Deputy Chief ICT Officer and Researcher, Center for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies, Bhutan 
  • Tanya Gunjan, Consultant, Indian School of Development Management, Germany 
  • Vianca Jasmin Anglo, Data Specialist, Liveable Cities Philippines, Philippines