Thanks everyone for your votes and offline feedback. According to the poll above with 10 responses, the majority of us (40%) are in favour of option 1, to continue as a Working Group of Opendata.ch. Second in popularity is the idea of forming an independent chapter of School of Data, followed by a series of crowdfunded initiatives / starting a new association / a collective without specific structure / all of the above.
This split in the votes does suggest to me that at least half of the group is uncertain about our structure and that we should discuss this further. From messages I received in response:
“I think it is a very interesting and important project and I am interested to play a part in it sooner or later.”
“this group has a good potential in terms of enabling and encouraging the spreading of data literacy”
“it’s imperative to become a School of Data chapter, to make clear to anybody (and to ourselves…) who we are and what we want”
“[this] should be a professional non-profit organization, which should enable people to make an income with the activities, and therefore not being overrun by other interests of associations or institutions (never underestimate institutional power!). so funding should be one of the top issues from beginning.”
“Don’t try everything and see which one works. Try one, the one who has the biggest chance of success right now, taking into consideration the current stakeholders. You will be building this step by step, slowly, no matter how prepared you are. […] my advice would be to approach this differently: take a look at the people who are involved now, the time you have, your motivation - and pick the scenario that best fits your current capacity. Iterate over it and, if you need, make some adjustments in the mid term. Allow you some space to make mistakes, don’t make big promises right now to any partner.”
Some of you have pointed out that the implications (consequences) of the various options are not clear. Yes, this quick poll is hardly a referendum. Nevertheless your feedback and guidance is something I’m taking very seriously. At this point, my main concern is knowing how many of us, one year later, are 1) actively interested in this project; 2) would like to change course from the one we’ve been following (i.e. option 1).
One of the implications of being a Working Group of an Open Knowledge chapter, is that supporting the open definition will be a strong component of our activities. Of course, as you know, I have no moral or philosophical qualms with this. I truly believe that open data, open information and the societal/cultural implications thereof should be a critical factor in the success of a data literacy initiative.
The other implication of being a chapter of Opendata.ch, is being tied in with a still relatively young coalition, a rapidly fluctuating community, a group of people that are committed to an agenda of political reform - as opposed to just technological or educational reform. I had an interesting call yesterday with Open Knowledge International and several European chapters - we talked about opendata.swiss and other projects. There was a brief conversation about the role that Switzerland has had so far, with OKCon, GLAM, CKAN…, and about the challenges that each chapter faces to step up their game, so to speak.
At the moment, I would say the biggest potential implication of being an Opendata.ch Working Group is having a national focus - not a regional, not international - national. My current discussions with the association’s leadership have so far gone in this direction - that we need a national learning concept with open data.
If we focus on being a chapter of School of Data and less of a Working Group, and ask for more support for our initiative from their organisation, it implies to me that we will mostly work on building support within Switzerland for data literacy worldwide, rather than the other way around. It means supporting NGOs and international policymakers, working with crisis relief and fundraising for developing countries.
Of course, one does not preclude the other - but I completely agree with the sentiment of “try one, the one [which] has the biggest chance of success right now”. I would be interested to know who voted for “All of the above”, and what s/he has in mind for our project. To me, despite some claims to the contrary, the pursuit of all causes all at once is not a realistic avenue.
What are the implications of splitting out of our roots? To me, it would mean a higher degree of freedom to experiment with soda camp, less obligations to anybody except whoever our audience is, and less reliance on external leadership. This means that a higher level of commitment is required to pull off anything with wider impact, a lot more patience to slowly and surely build upon our own foundations, and a modest existence as a glocal community rather than one with national or global focus.
I would just ask everyone to at least consider the alternatives. I have a meeting with the Board of Opendata.ch on Friday, and will make a statement about the future of this initiative based on our discussions here. We are at a crossroads. If make.opendata.ch/school is how the majority of our group sees this project, then by all means, let us continue in this spirit! If not, it is up to you, dear reader, to share your convictions and vision with me and the others in this group.
Do It Now.