Using your Voice to Amplify your Career

Mentoring is one of the most rewarding experiences in my career. Over the years, I have learned from mentors many skills on how to build my network, develop my skills, speak publicly and find my voice. Today I had the opportunity to share my experiences with the Qatar Computing Research Institute‘s Summer Interns. I am very thankful to my teachers and mentors for guiding me. Certainly as a mentee and mentor, I consider it a goal to be a lifelong learner. Do you have tips and ideas about amplifying your career? I’d love to learn from you.

Here are the slides with notes, articles, tools and techniques that might help you:


Convening Innovation Allies

How can we use advanced computing, human computing and social innovation to have impact in Qatar? Healthy lives, taking care of the environmental, youth engagement, resilient cities, social entrepreneurship and humanitarian response are some of the core Social Computing research activities at Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI)?

On Wednesday, April 15, 2015, QCRI hosted a small forum to discuss social innovation in Qatar. The session consisted of speakers from QCRI and partners as well as some informal discussion groups. Thank you for our guests and participants for this informative conversation.

The Qatar Red Crescent Disaster Management Camp was held in Doha, Qatar from March 31 – April 9, 2015. These are some early observations that I had on the use of technology and the opportunities for future research and collaboration:

We plan on expanding this dialogue in the future. Until then, your insights will inform both our strategic planning, research agenda and future activity collaborations.

Social Innovation Workshop Discussion groups 2015

QCRI’s Social Innovation Programme in Qatar is focused on foru streams of research and activities:
  • Smart and Resilient Cities
  • Remote Sensing for Social Good
  • Digital Humanitarians
  • Social Media for Disaster

In the Resilient city discussion group we saw some opportunities with ICTQatar leading open data initiatives, QMIC working with traffic sensor data and the potential of sports data to provide insights into society. Collectively we agreed that we need to know more about resilience city and society ecosystems in Qatar. Some of the barriers included lack of policy and regulation in Qatar, community services need access to the data and
cellular data is hard to share.

The Remote Sensing group spent time thinking about blue sky uses for these tools and techniques. Some of the concepts tie directly into the Resilient City Group with opportunities to use phone traffic sensors, computer vision and drones and uavs for parking. Some of the potential imagery sources include landsat imagery, Planet Labs and Skybox (Google).

The Social Media for Disaster and Digital Humanitarian teams joined forces to delve into opportunities, barriers and new research items. Opportunities included a very diverse community (languages, cultures), engaged youth, access to technology/mobile devices and the sense of belonging in a geographically small but strategic area. The barriers include lack of civil society, language barriers, education levels and the fluidity of communities. Also, there is a need to reframe the concept of volunteering into opportunities for educational and society advancement. Research opportunities included understanding the needs/motivations of people, peer-to-peer transfer of knowledge, community development in Qatar and understanding social responsibility programs in Qatar.

Thanks again to the speakers, guests and my colleagues for a great morning.


Computers that Think and our Role

What is our role as software developers, research scientists or startup leaders? The very computer software and hardware that we create are changing lives. It is truly inspiring to learn of this advanced computing science of teaching computers. But, what is our role in this? What is the impact of our work on the lives of others? Prasenjit Mitra asked us these very questions during his TedxEducationCity (Doha) talk this past Saturday. Dr. Mitra is a Principal Scientist, Data Analytics at Qatar Computing Research Institute.

 Prasenjit Mitra @ TEDxEducationCity

As innovators, it is important to consider these factors. Often I write about the positive work and changes that these software innovations deliver. But, this comes with responsibility to create wisely and take care of our neighbours. To that end, last year I hosted a workshop on Data Ethics at Stanford University. As an data advocate and someone who works with human computing/machine language processing, I continue to be contemplate the digital cowboy behaviour which may have negative connotations on the very people we may be intended to support and/or research. As a new staff member at QCRI, it matters that my colleagues really consider our role and try to create within a socially and ethically responsible framework. There is no TedX video yet, so take my word that he was an engaging presenter in a conversation way. Please do review the slides with this in mind. Congratulations, Dr. Mitra.

Mindless: How Smart Computers are making Dumber Humans

I literally just finished reading the book, Mindless; How Smart Computers are making Dumber Humans, before attending TedxEducationCity. It provides a wide angle lens into management software (metrics over human conversations) and computational decision-making in various industries. While it is focused on primarily the US economy, the final chapter about China was frightening. While I am a strong advocate of computers and technology for social good, I think that we need to have more conversations about the impact and consequences.

About the book:
“In Mindless, Simon Head argues that these systems have come to trump human expertise, dictating the goals and strategies of a wide array of businesses, and de-skilling the jobs of middle class workers in the process. CBSs are especially dysfunctional, Head argues, when they apply their disembodied expertise to transactions between humans, as in health care, education, customer relations, and human resources management.”

Happy reading!


You Verify, All the time

We are all human magnifying glasses and zoom features. Every day our task as humans is to discern, detect and distill. In Doha, this means things like self-protection: “Is it safe to cross this street and will the cars stop?” I’ve been super adept at the squint and run carefully looking for fast moving SVUs that appear out of nowhere. Online we are even more critical observers. We’ve been subject to hoaxes, photoshop fantasies and curious statements that are too good to be true.

magnifying glass

Over at Jump2Spot, my colleague, Chung Wong is a member of the Manhattan before 1990 GeoSleuthing Facebook community. I’ve been monitoring their work for a few months and am in awe of their digital detective work in a crowdsourced community effort. They inspire me about the future of online verification. Geosleuthers are the future of online verification. While there is a bit of a hierarchy from journalism to digital humanitarians, what binds us all is our curiousity and our drive to find accuracy.

How can we know if an image or a comment is true and verified? During times of crisis and emergency, this massive volume of True and Untrue unfolds at a fast pace. Humanitarians, NGOs and citizens want to know asap what is verified and actionable in order to make critical decisions. Veri.lyconnects you via global crowdsourcing challenges for evidence collection and verification. Our goal is to build this open source software and community to unravel these puzzles in real time.


In this 30 minute conversation, I interview the team with our special guest, Craig Silverman, a co-author of the Verification Handbook.

Thanks to our guests, participants and team for this great conversation. There were some questions as well.

1. Could be used in conflict prevention?
Answer: As with any software, it is about the programme around the tool. The key would be to apply the tool while safeguarding the privacy and security of individuals? We would be happy to continue this discussion. Join our mailing list to ask other Digital Detectives.

2. Where lies the automation in the process? Can we see the platform live? How are users onboarded? can be found on our website. See our Digital Detective Verification guides and involved in building the programme and tools.

Next Steps

In the coming weeks, we will be planning more online conversations, share our development and programme plans. Stay tuned!

****** is a collaboration between University of Southampton (Agents, Interaction and Complexity Research Group), Qatar Computing Research Institute (Social Computing), and Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Social Computing and Artificial Intelligence Lab). Server space is provided by the generous support from ORCHID Project.

(Icon credit: Alexandria Eddings, Noun Project CCBY)


Infusing Ethics into Data Projects

Education, assistance and enforcement are needed to build better, ethically balanced data-driven projects. The Ethics of Data workshop on the Data lifecycle discussed ethical scenarios and key aspects of a data-driven project. This lead to many sticky notes and attempts to create the big asks and some outputs. The participants came from many different disciplines, which helped us quality check and inform our review.

Our group together created 3 asks for further review:

  • Resources: This should be a center online for people and NGOs to share and find guides on building ethical data driven projects.
  • Tool/Template: There should be a data risk/benefits/costs template as part of every grant application to build better ethical projects from front to back.
  • Review: Could there be a non-profit assistance group that provides free, consultation on ethical questions? How would they enforce standards? Could it be like a review board for research projects?
  • Milestones for an Ethical Data Project:

    We created over 100 ideas and grouped them into categories as milestones. There should be checklists for each milestone including key questions for the team. While the EoD team started on the mini-ethical checklists, this really needs more iteration. We also highlighted some milestones that are often overlooked or underfunded such as: a data collection checklist, pilot, quality control, verification, documentation, secondary use and impact/monitoring & evaluation. One other observation in our conversations was proper project management skills to scope many of the ethical minefields in advance of the project pilot.

    Key milestones on the Data Drive project

    Without trying to influence the room, the key project milestones resemble the toolkits we created at Ushahidi. Toolkits, including the Ushahidi one, do need to include more ethical statements/checklists to improve the success of building better projects. But, toolkits are only as useful as those who use and enforce them.

    Infuse with Ethical Checklists

    We gifted the Responsible Data Forum with a list of 70 questions, terms and ideas for the key milestones. If all the various milestones of a data-driven project are infused with ethical questions, checklists, and recommendations, this resource would be incredibly useful. Participants suggested that the checklists start with very generic items, but be broken out into topical domain recommendations/checklist items. This is to ensure adoption and remix in diverse fields from human rights to health to science. Some of the questions that really drove conversations included:
    Data analysis: What do you do when your data analysis provides negative results (from your hypothesis)? Quality Control: Can the data be re-identified? Resourcing: Who can collect the data and why? Secondary data: What is the time horizon on the data and future use criteria?

    Key Questions from the Ethical Checklist

    Ethics of Data – Resource Center / Review Board:

    One of the outputs of our first day of brainstorming was the need to have an Ethical Resource and Review Board. The team split off to debate the pros and cons of this idea. They even determined some of the needed services such as legal referral.
    Ethics of Data Review board

    More resources:

    The EofD team recreated a list of additional Ethics reading. It might keep you up all night with worry, but better to be ‘in the know’.

    As well, here is a compilation on Domain-­specific digital ethics, practices, and conventions. The one that really opened my mind was the Bellagio Framework: “Big Data, Communities and Ethical Resilience: A Framework for Action.” They provided criteria to consider: Governance, Place, Socio-Cultural Context, Science, and Technology.

    Thank you

    Thanks to our hosts at Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society (Kim Meredith, Lucy Bernholz, Rob Reich and Sam Spiewak) for making the Ethics of Data event possible. Thanks to my co-host Patrick Vinck of Harvard Humanitarian Initiative for great conversations. As always, Aspiration (Gunner and Misty) supported us with facilitation that inspired a collaborative and productive event for all. And, lastly, thank you to all the participants for being so thoughtful and inspiring teachers as we all trundle down this journey to bring better decision-making to all of our work.

    (Note: It is my hope that we can infuse HOT with some of this work and trial some ideas in our work. I’ll be sharing it with my fellow Board members and the HOT Community.)


Ok go! What are you doing at OKfest14?

Ok go! This week 1000 people converge in Berlin for Okfestival with many more participating and observing online. We are here to instigate open action and open minds.

The Open Knowledge Festival 2014 will be our biggest open data and open knowledge event to date. It will be global, inclusive and participatory. We expect it to create a significant local and international surge of innovation.

Throughout the festival, I will be leading the Community storytelling team. I’ll mostly be using twitter and storify to curate stories. Also, expect pictures and maybe some videos with attendees. During this event, I am also running or assisting on a large number of sessions and side events, plus attending some key sessions.

okfest logo

Here’s my schedule for the following week. See some of you soon! And, for friends who aren’t here, see you online (all items are at the OKFEST venue unless stated otherwise):

Sunday, July 13th (completed)

Watch Germany win world cup, walk to celebration at Brandenburg Gate (checkmark)

Monday, July 14th (completed)

Hold informal #geobeers with mapper and activist friends in Berlin at Strandbar (so amazing, done-so)

OKfest Opening Day: Tuesday, July 15th
Open Knowledge Community Summit (13:00 – 16:00 CET)

stickies are love

This is a community-driven event to talk about the Open Knowledge community. See all the details. I’ll be hosting a sub-group to talk about the last 5 months of community programming and get input into the next steps.

Storytelling team meeting (17:00 CET)

Sharing stories, ideas and moments is such a big part of community events. I’ve had much practice curating and encouraging stories at large events. Join our Storytelling team and meet other digital curators. Look for folks with blue ribbons or tweet us at #okstory with blog links, videos, photos, headlines and key themes.

How to join: Review our Storytelling wiki page, add your name to our etherpad, tweet @heatherleson or with #okstory to meet team members. Our first meeting is at 5pm in the Media Hub room at the Okfest venue. We will have other informal meetings to be announced throughout the event. Stay tuned.

School of Data Table at the open night (18:00 – 21:00 CET)

Come meet the School of Data existing and new fellows, local partners and team. Ask questions, get involved.

Community Drinks (21:30 – on)

The Community team is hosting an informal drinks night. Join us for chats and connecting.
Location: Prater Garten

Bike by

OkFest First day: Wednesday, July 16th

Storytelling Team meeting like at 8:30am at venue. TBD, see #okstory.

I’ll be attending all the morning sessions. Truly, super excited for Ory to talk plus graffiti activists!!

Open Coalition (12:00 – 13:00)

Help us build an Open Coalition across various open organizations and individuals. We have common missions and are stronger together.

Power, Politics, Inclusion and voice

“Data, information, knowledge is created in a political environment where power dynamics dictate who is/is not included in the creation process. Unless we consider who is involved in knowledge construction we run the risk of simply entrenching existing power structures. If open data is dominated by data produced in the Global North what chance do we have in redressing the balance of power for an equitable world? “

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Workshop (16:30 -17:30 CET)

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team will share stories and do a demo with hands on support. Super excited to support Katie and other Hotties on this.

Open Mapping Party

Join the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, CartoDB, Development Seed, Zeit Online and Mapbox to talk open mapping strategies and tools over drinks. Heather Leson, Ian Schuler, Javier de la Torre, Alex Barth and Paul Blickle are in town and ready to connect over humanitarian response, data visualizations, OpenStreetMap and satellite imagery. We are inviting map nerds, enthusiasts and friends to join us for a mapper night. Sign up here.

survey tape for teams

Okfest Second day: Thursday, July 17th
Storytelling team – meeting tbd

Day 3 of Community Storytelling. Stay tuned for more highlights and a meeting (12:00 – 13:00) is a new open tool from the amazing Ushahidi folks. The team will share a demo and answer questions. I’m expecting many civil society and journalists to join in the conversations. Session details.

Low Tech Data : Storytelling and Storyfinding (14:00 – 15:00)

Rahul and Gabi will be a fantastic hosts for this session at the heart of every impact for civil society and activists. See more details:

Looking for creative ways to find and present data stories in low-tech settings? We will share our hands-on, participatory techniques for bringing people together around data to find and tell powerful stories without computers. You’ll walk away with skills and ideas to help the communities you work with!

Working with data can empower or disempower. Algorithms, technical language, unfamiliar processes – these all leave many communities incapable of working with data, or understanding data-driven discussions. Most folks don’t “speak data”.

How to Teach Open Data (15:30 – 16:30)

Join the School of Data and friends to learn best practices in teaching open data. (full details) We’ll have a world cafe to share

  • How to organise tech and data workshops
  • Building effective curriculum and accreditation
  • Type of education activities: a blended offline, online
  • Designing passion driven communities (I’ll be with Bekka from P2PU)
If I had more time or a time machine, I would attend these amazing sessions too!

School of Data

School of Data Summer Camp (Potsdam) (invite only): Friday, July 18, 2014 – Monday July 21, 2014

School of Data is the division that I work in at Open Knowledge. This summer camp includes fellows, partners and local instances of School of Data. We will talk about strategies, share skills and develop plans for the upcoming year. I am specifically sharing community programming and community engagement best practices:

July 22nd, 2014

FALL OVER, Report back, sleep!!!


Batman, Foodies, Fashion + CrisisMaps at Next Day Better

Building a common good unites us. This Thursday I’m participating in Next Day Better in Toronto. This is such a special event combining fun, food, art and technology to inspire people to make the Next Day Better. I’ll share the story of Crisismappers highlighting the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team response in the Philippines.

How will I make the Next Day Better?

I help people get more involved in their world. One example is supporting an open community-driven digital humanitarian response.

“We are a culture platform that builds and activates diaspora communities to create a better future. We believe that diasporas like the Philippines global community are hubs and inspirations for social innovation, incredible design, and world changing ideas. We bring these doers and change makers together to share their stories and make the next day better.”


Tickets are only $20.00 with amazing talks and food! Please join us.

Help Share about Next Day Better

Facebook updates:

We’re partnering with social innovation group @NextDayBetter to celebrate their launch in Toronto on June 19. It will be a night of inspired talks from changemakers – the #Philippines is ready for open-source mapping! If you’re in Toronto, RSVP here.

Amazing things are happening June 19 – board member/idea hacker Heather Leson will be @NextDayBetter’s launch in Toronto as they bring big-idea thinkers, amazing work doers and changemakers together. Get your tickets here.


We’re partnering w/ @NextDayBetter for their launch in #Toronto 6/19! Learn more:

The #Philippines is ready. Join us @NextDayBetter Toronto launch | 6/19 7pm | RSVP

About NextDayBetter

NextDayBetter is a platform that spreads ideas and actions that make the next day better. Ideas and actions are Philippines-flavored and rooted in design, entrepreneurship and innovation.

We invite innovators entrepreneurs, designers, do gooders — both Filipino and Non-Filipino—to share their stories about creating a better future.

Visit for more information.

I found out about the Next Day Better group after engaging with folks around Hacking PH: focused on rebuilding a resilient Philippines. They really inspired me with their approach to building community locally and globally.

How will you make the Next Day Better?


Mesh in the Open

Mesh is Canada’s premier digital conference about what is next in business, media, marketing and society. The diverse participants always inspire. This year was no exception from Neil Harbisson’s cyborg activist to Mark Little on telling stories better with Storyful my brain is still spinning from the eclectic conversations.

This year I had the honour of running a workshop with Gabe Sawhney about Open Data, Civic Tech and Hacking for Good. We made our session fairly interactive with some slides to frame questions and then 5 breakout groups to talk about everything from technology in the upcoming Toronto elections or building a civic hack lab in the city. Each group had 30 minutes to talk amongst themselves and then provide report-backs. Thanks to the MESH team for inviting us to hack the conference process and bring our civic engagement spin to the event.


Matter @ Go Open Data

Matter. Every morning we wake up and do things that matter. All of us have different versions or reasons behind “matter“. Some of us work because it provides fuel to things that matter to us like family, savings, neighbourhoods, future, or another cup of coffee. Some of us are very lucky to work on items close to our own values.

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about how to get to the next 20000 or 2 million people who think that Open Government and Open Data Matters. Well, it strikes me that we are focusing on “matter” from the wrong direction. We are caught up in the conversations and techniques (portals, datasets). While these are very important, I think that miss the true opportunity to really talk with our neighbours. Today I am going to cite some global and local examples to highlight how we can possibly get to “matter more”.

The full Go Open Data:

A Build a Data Community Model

In the community management field, we create community playbooks. These are strategies and common methodologies to support our agendas. Here are 24 things that you can do to build community by various levels of engagement from just a little bit to more of a byte to a full meal deal experience. Your community members really lead programming to guide you in your tailored choices. I’ve hacked together a data community playbook model with Doug Belshaw & Mozilla’s Web Literacy matrix to share some ideas on how we can build global communities. Let’s keep remixing. Every community is unique, but these are some thoughts on how to build openly.

Note: This is an interactive chart. Simply role your cursor over the columns to see more data.

(on Infogram)


My full speaker notes

Here is a rough edit of my speaker notes and all the associated resources:

Slide 1: Matter

Every morning we wake up and do things that matter. All of us have different versions or reasons behind matter. Some of us work because it provides fuel to things that matter to us like family, savings, neighbourhoods, future, or another cup of coffee. Some of us are very lucky to work on items close to our own values. This is a big responsibility. Not every citizen has this privilege.

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about how to get to the next 20000 or 2 million people who think that Open Government and Open Data Matters. Well, it strikes me that we are focusing on “matter” from the wrong direction. We are caught up in the conversations and techniques (Portals, datasets) that miss the true opportunity to really talk with our neighbours. Today I am going to cite some global and local examples to highlight how we could potentially “matter more”.

(Event: Go Open Data)

Slide 2: Leaders, Teachers, Methods, Capacity Building, Core Processes.

As a crisis mapper, we tend to seek data and information like a high speed train of contributors and information. Some of the things we’ve learned are directly applicable to what the good folks in Ontario and Canada are trying to do.

Two stories:
Navigators: Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team and wider OSM community responded to the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Pierre Beland of QC (Canada) with Andrew Buck (US) worked very closely with Maning Sambale (Philippines) to remap the affected areas. These maps were then used by the American Red Cross, UN OCHA and MSF for logistics and response. How? Map Capacity, global outreach, Consumers (people who need the data) and tools like Task Manager to make it easy to share. It was an amazing effort. I had the opportunity to participate and host events in London, UK and Nairobi, Kenya. This was partially successful due to matchmaking by navigators who acted as map mentors with new mappers. We also asked some tough questions about satellite imagery, licenses and should we use drone imagery. Drones for data collection is a hard topic. The privacy issues and data integrity were also hot discussions. We don’t have the answers but we all need to ask questions about privacy and possibilities. We should be asking these hard data questions now for our province and country.

Teaching Data Skills/Data Literacy: A data portal is not an end in itself, we need to unlock it. The Govt of the Philippines and the World Bank are working with the School of Data. My colleague is in the Philippines right now working with them on these data issues. School of Data has free courses online. Take them, remix them. They belong to everyone who needs data and data skills.


  • American Red Cross and HOT member Dale Kunce presents on the Impact of HOT –

Slide 3: Feelings and We are all data providers/collectors

At the OpenGovernment Partnership meetings in London UK last year, I had an “Ahh moment”. Chuks from Reclaim Naija ( a Nigerian community based organization) questioned the IATI speaker about “success” for budget data. He said “We won’t trust the budget data unless we are involved in the process.” While participatory budgeting is on its way in Canada, what really struck me about this statement was “Feelings.”

While we mosey down the Open Data is great parade, we need to talk about and deal with feelings about open data.

This brings up key questions – Do Ontarians trust their governments? Are we comfortable with the process?

Data collection and sharing is not about just the government. It is about citizens too. As we participate, we should collect datasets to compare and hold our governments and ourselves accountable. We should not wait for our government or big businesses to do this for us. This is our neighbourhood, our country too.



4. Navigation: Are we reaching people? Businesses? How will we incorporate new technology?
I worry often that as we focus on Open Data for municipalities and what we ‘those in the know’ want from Open Data. How can we focus on what matters to people? I think we need to change this conversation.

How will sensor data be used in the next 10 years?
A friend of mine is interested in water quality and sensors. He would like to implement this in northern towns because what really matters is Water. What can we do with open data, sensors, programming and community engagement in Northern Ontario? How can we apply the elements I mentioned from Typhoon Haiyan or Reclaim Naija, but for Ontario?

All of this goes back to: Who are we involving in this conversation and why? Are we asking the right questions? And, do our NGOs, Civil society and neighbours have the skills they need to use open data for their work. The answer is – not yet.

Paul Baines is leading a project across Southern Ontario about water tracking and sustainability programming. The purpose of this participatory map is to give people a shared space to mark, explore, and dialogue about a Great Lakes Commons.
Paul needs data skills and some datasets – in terms of open data for the Commons Map – He needs:

- bottled water permits for all political jurisdictions surrounding the great lakes
- city, provincial, and federal parks
- crown, shared, and private land ownership
- watershed boundaries for all jurisdictions
- native reserves in the USA parts of the great lakes
- public hiking/biking trails for the Great Lakes
- solar and wind energy locations
- organic farms locations

We’ll hold a workshop to support his project in the coming months. But who else out needs these skills? Who is navigating all these organizations and businesses from ‘yeah, open data’ to ‘how you make it work for you’. While I am not talking about hand-holding the talent, I am saying that this gap is not going away. I’m excited about the Ontario government’s and the various city governments for their commitment to open data. Maybe we need a Service Ontario approach to Open Data. In the meantime, I have hope for people like CODI – Canadian Open Data Institute and MARsDD, Center for Social Innovation and others to make it possible. We need a civil society and neighbourhood action plan. Well, beyond what the government can do.

Recently I was speaking with a Toronto businessman about Open Data. He said: “What I really want is infrastructure data to make decisions about my business.” (Specifically he wants access to public data, like conduit and pole data.) He said that the cost to get that was very very high. I have true hope that this programme and our conversations today will help Open Data matter for him and the 100 or so people that he employs.



Slide 5: Are we asking the right questions?

The new Government of Ontario site is great start. You are asking for input. But – Point blank – are we asking the right questions to make open data and open government matter to most Ontarian…not just those in the “know” or “those online” or those in “niche circles”. Open Data is also really about citizen engagement and citizen data collection. This will help it be more sustainable and with a richer impact.

We need to go outside and get uncomfortable. In a few months, why not have an Open Government Kashachewan session? How can we use open data to help our neighbours who live in rural Ontario? How can we use open data to help emergency managers? These are highly complex questions that deserve our attention. Otherwise, our work is in vain and tailored for a niche audience. I think the best programmes using technology and intellect are those based on the practice of being a good neighbour. I am not saying that Open Data can solve wicked problems, but it should be part of the toolkits.

“Report author James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said there appears to be a high level of distrust among aboriginals in Canada toward the federal and provincial governments.”



Slide 6: Community Playbook: Here are 24 things that could help build your community.
Go outside, remix community play books by audiences, and ask the right questions. We need consider Tim Horton’s, Community Centers and Churches as access points to Open Government and Open Data. This is why I am excited about Richard Pietro’s OpenGov Tour across Canada or the work of Marsdd or CODI. We need more creative ways to listen and create value. Maybe we should partner with bands and artists more. How would they tell this story that is currently policy laden. We don’t know another latest, greatest ‘in python not php’ transportation app. We need to dream a bit bigger and listen, really listen to what else might matter to our neighbours.

During Open Data Day, the community in Buenos Aires went outside and made a mural. What are other creative ways that we can reach people?

Coffee chats should be around community engagement and playbooks. What are the steps by audience tip and each of the associated programs behind this?

Next steps: Here are 24 tactics and programmes that could help. By all means, remix these. Please share back your community building tactics.

To sum – There is a global community using citizen created data and building participatory data programmes. Just ask and you might find others who are using open data for a widerange of topics that matter.


  • 12May

    May Days are here!

    School of Data

    May is big month for events on all things open and technology. I’m participating in a number of events wearing a number of hats: School of Data, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and the Crisismappers Network. Most of these are in Toronto and some are free. Hope to see you there!

    GO Open Data (May 15, 2014)
    What an honour it is to participate again in the 2nd annual Go Open Data event. This year I will be keynoting about Challenges and Next Steps for Open Data. Rest assured I’ll give some global and local examples from python scraping to feelings. There are some spots still open for the event. Hope you can join it! (There is a $25.00 cost.)

    ICT4D Toronto Drinks (May 20, 2014)
    Having attended ICT4D drinks in London (UK) and Washington (DC), I know in advance the mix of great folks. I’d like to see this as a regular event in Toronto. This is a free night to talk with like minds using Tech for Good around the world. Register here!

    1st Toronto Tech Salon: How Can Technology Improve International Development? (May 21, 2014)
    Tech Salons are a way to have a deeper discussion about topics. The model is much more interactive. One of the questions that is sure to stir up some great debates:
    “And are we actually imposing Western values and suppressing local businesses with extractive electronic tools no better than colonial powers of the past?”

    This is an invite-only event, but I think there are spots still open. I love that some of the participants are focused on mobile and development. To register, click here.

    Subtle Technologies (May 24, 2014)
    I’ll be joining Stephen Kovats’ Subtle Technology session: Critical State Making: Applying Open Culture in Post-Conflict Development. Crisismappers and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team are using open technology to support humanitarian efforts. Using some of the recent examples from Sudan, Mali, and Guinea, we will talk about the complexities of building capacity with local leaders, local context and local language. It is always a delicate balance. (This

    MESH – Open Data Brainstorming Workshop (May 27, 2014)
    At MESH, I will be co-hosting an interactive session about Civic Tech and Open Data at MESH. We will be stirring up conversations and creating a snapshot of what MESHies think about Open Data and Civic Tech.
    (There is a cost to register for this event.)

    IEEE: International Humanitarian Technology Conference (June 1, 2014)
    With fellow Hotties (community members of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team), we will be hosting a HOT workshop all about how technology and HOT’s processes have had an impact. We will give a walk-through about recent HOT activities including the Philippines response as well as do some hands-on mapping to show some of the technology we use. Our goal is to better connect with the IEEE community of expertise. (This is a paid event in Montreal.)

    Truly it is a pleasure to have a full month of sharing and making by hosting, keynoting or participating in all these activities. Now, off to prepare. See some of you soon.

    (Photo: School of Data expedition in Geneva (September 2013))

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