{Hallo: 'Welt'} meet the Datenschule

Over the past year we regularly connected to Schools of Data around the world in our quest to fully establish the Swiss chapter. Last month we met with friends to the south who are running data expeditions in Italy.

Our fellows to the north have been in contact with us since last summer - in particular, we spoke several times with Mirko Lorenz, a data journalist and leader of data expeditions, whose popular product Datawrapper has been used around the world, even in Swiss sites like Journal B. He gave us some great guidance at the start, and introduced us to the wider School of Data network (thanks again!)

We were super excited to hear the news from Open Knowledge Germany of the recent public launch of Datenschule.de through an ambitious, critical and visually exciting campaign for Google’s Impact Challenge:

After the dust settled, we shared our concept with them and sat down with Daniel Dietrich to talk about some of the history of their data literacy project, shared insights into the decisions along the way and challenges ahead. We are looking forward to meeting more of their team in the days ahead and brainstorm some cross-border projects.

For example, the Jugend hackt team is already involved in our Youth Activities, and we are hoping to work with the people behind Energyhack.de at the upcoming Open Energy Data Hackdays. Here are some notes from our discussion yesterday with Daniel:

  • Open Knowledge in Germany began years back as a community/volunteer driven project, and has now evolved into a Social Startup: an unpaid board of directors and a team of 20 working actively on diverse projects
  • Daniel himself consults a variety of organizations on data question, from the UN’s DESA to Hivos International
  • It’s pretty obvious that data/digital skills are in high demand, and that a combination of professional education and community inputs need to address challenges at different levels.
  • „Sensitisation and Skill Development“ is one way this problem is being discussed at a high level. Working with government departments is challenging, as it takes a long time to get through planning and actually deploy a project. Data training for journalists is another big growth area, but mostly catered to already.
  • So they have decided to focus on helping other civil-society organisations become more data-driven. With the main challenge there being that most of them don’t even yet know that they have possibilities/needs in this area.
  • They do not work with transparency / accountability organisations in Germany, so Open Society (the sponsors of School of Data international) did not come in question. Google’s 3rd party support was a good way to get this going, and they waited until they had a clear support line & expectations before starting the program.
  • There was discussion about whether to concentrate on their local region or go international, and with Datenschule they see themselves as a strong member of the School of Data network, but not a driver. Some of the German-based coaches (like Mirko, who I mentioned above), are involved in international workshops through the network already, and they will answer to future calls.
  • The focus of their project is now to come up with a range of appropriate workshops, where they focus on solving problems and not writing software. From Design Thinking to Prototyping and further User Centered Design & Testing iterations, matchmaking with expert pools and other organisations, process oriented consulting and deep in-house competency in data-tech.
  • The big challenge is changemaking: finding the right partners, making an impact, sharing stories.
  • Hackdays are great but not really sustainable, they are a part of a much bigger process.
  • The School of Data is one of the best brands of Open Knowledge, and they go really well together.

We will sit down and come up with some concrete collaboration ideas together next with the rest of the team. Please send any questions or suggestions you have!