Data Literacy for Data Stewards Data Governance Workshop

by Bob Gradeck

February 10, 2023

The goal of our January 27 workshop on data governance was geared to getting participants familiar with what data governance is, and comfortable and confident making the case for data governance. This was the final workshop in our initial cohort. Special thanks to everyone who participated and were generous of their time to provide feedback on the individual activities and design of the series.

In this workshop, Jason Ficorilli of the City of Pittsburgh served as a co-facilitator, for which we were grateful. He presented the City’s definition of data governance as “establishing authority, control, and shared decision-making over the management of data assets.” 

Jason then took questions about his job at the Department of Innovation and Performance (I&P), where he serves as the primary point of contact for data within I&P and works with teams in other departments to produce data inventories. The audience was able to learn more about how the City is approaching data governance, including: 

  • This is the first time that the City has comprehensively approached data governance. 
  • The open data legislation enacted in 2014 provides a mandate for data governance in the City and in related authorities. 
  • I&P is using this process to establish a basic understanding of how departments manage data for different processes. Some systems have now been fully updated and digitized. Even where that’s the case, there can be a considerable amount of older paper records to manage. 
  • An important part of the job involves building trust with data stewards and managers in other departments.  

To prepare for our main activity, participants were given a listing of the benefits often cited by advocates for data governance, which include:  

  • More-efficient processes 
  • Reduced barriers to data access 
  • More-effective decisions using data 
  • Improved coordination 
  • Increased transparency 
  • Higher-quality and more-consistent data 
  • Opportunities for accountability 
  • Reduction in costs/expenses 
  • Ability to manage risks related to: 
    • Privacy 
    • Data security
    • Civil and regulatory liability
  • Improved perception of the benefits of data use
  • Strategic and sufficient investments in information initiatives 
  • Enhanced trust in data  
  • Ability to identify investment opportunities in people and systems 
  • Able to take advantage of opportunities to embed values into data systems and practices 
  • Greater sustainability and resiliency 

We also shared a partial listing of actions, activities, systems, programs, and processes that fall under the “data governance” umbrella. These include: 

  • Form a data governance committee  
  • Establish values, philosophies, decision-making processes and priorities 
  • Craft a needs assessment 
  • Develop engagement activities 
  • Formulate data and documentation standards  
  • Create data inventories and data catalogs 
  • Write data management plans  
  • Craft privacy, security and access policies and protocols 
  • Draft incident response plans  
  • Implement data validation and quality control processes  
  • Define interoperability protocols  
  • Establish legal frameworks 
  • Identify staff roles and responsibilities 
  • Implement training and professional development programs 
  • Develop procurement guidelines 
  • Enact long-term preservation policies   
  • Monitor enforcement and compliance frameworks 

Data governance requires a lot of resources in terms of technology investments – and even more importantly – investments in people. Success hinges in assembling the adequate resources for data governance at the city. Our activity asked participants to put themselves in Jason’s shoes (but in a different city). Participants were asked to choose a scenario and develop a plan to engage people that may either be in a position to either strengthen or stall your efforts to enact a strong data governance program.  

The scenario we worked on together involved planning for a meeting with their new Mayor.  

The Mayor is interested in using city data as an asset to measure performance. Trained as a community organizer, she has also mentioned that she’s a bit wary of adopting surveillance technologies that may put more-vulnerable members of the community at risk of harm. She campaigned on enhancing opportunities for community engagement. 

To prepare for the meeting, participants in the workshop suggested that they:  

  • Collect stories of how other communities with strong data governance have avoided making mistakes with surveillance technology; 
  • Conduct research on public safety and transparency in the city;
  • Uncover different models for including the public in data decisions;
  • Gather stories of things that went wrong where data governance wasn’t established;
  • Learn more about how and why the mayor wants to measure performance;
  • Discover how other cities have measured performance around issues that are of particular interest, including surveillance and community engagement; and 
  • Ask colleagues in other places about their experience advocating for data governance with their leadership. 

After discussing this scenario, participants discussed a second scenario in more depth in breakout groups. They then came back together to have a conversation about the ways that data governance processes and frameworks can be used to institutionalize the values of equity and justice into data practices.  

Since this was our final meeting of the first cohort, we conducted a second survey of our participants to learn more about their experience. Several of the questions asked in the closing survey were also asked in our initial survey. A comparison of results suggests that our participants grew in their awareness and understanding of ethical and just data and technology practices and became more confident in their ability to make decisions about data and technology. 

Assessment of how much Data Literacy for Data Stewards participants agree with the following statements before and after the workshop series: 

Statement  Pre-workshop average score  Post-workshop average score 
I understand the benefits and challenges that come from the use of data and technology.  4.1  4.3 
I can describe the importance of ethical and just data and technology practices.  3.9  4.6 
I form my own opinions related to the use of data and technology.  3.9  4.3 
I can ethically justify decisions I make when it comes to data and technology.  3.5  4.4 
I am knowledgeable about ethics and justice and am comfortable advising others working in data and technology.  3.1  4.3 

Scale: 1= Totally Disagree, 5=Totally Agree Source: WPRDC  

28 respondents completed the initial survey, 20 respondents completed the final survey. 

We’ll run another cohort of this series this spring. If you’re interested in participating, please let us know in an email (, and we’ll let you know when registration opens.