Data Literacy for Data Stewards Kickoff Workshop

by Bob Gradeck

October 20, 2022

Special thanks to Adena Bowden for co-authoring this post.
On Friday (October 14, 2022), we kicked off the initial cohort of our new twelve-week virtual data literacy series, “Data Literacy for Data Stewards.” We created this series because we know that more and more people that we work with are seeing the harms, challenges, and injustices that sometimes result from the use of data and technology. Our twin pandemics of COVID-19 and structural racism have highlighted the need for data practitioners to expose and dismantle technologies and practices that reinforce and amplify powerlessness, discrimination, and injustice. Helping our partners build their data literacy is one of the ways we can work to protect members of our community.
During our recruitment process, people expressed a desire to build better individual practices, and institutionalize the values of equity, fairness, and justice into the practices and infrastructures of their organizations. In our workshops, participants will learn to think critically about creating, applying, and managing data and technology, and reflect on how their actions and decisions impact people and communities. Our participants for this series come from a wide range of partner organizations, including local government agencies, non-profit organizations, housing, health care, community coalitions, philanthropy, consulting, and education.  


Workshop topics that we’ll cover in our pilot cohort include: 
  • Missing Data 
  • Stigmatization 
  • Context 
  • Representation 
  • Data Visualization 
  • Dashboards and data analysis 
  • Privacy 
  • Algorithms and Surveillance 
  • Data Management 
  • Procurement 
  • Data governance 
This blog outlines what the thirty participants did in the kick-off workshop. Our objectives for the workshop included getting to know more about each other and establishing ground rules for the entire series.  


Breakout groups (in Zoom) are a key part of the workshop. We use them to maximize opportunities for peer learning and active participation. In our breakout session for this workshop, participants discussed what they were most excited about learning throughout the series and what session topics they were most interested in. They were most excited to learn about: 
  • Making data governance more inclusive by building capacity for participation  
  • Helping others access and use data 
  • Improving data sharing and representation to better meet the needs of data users  
  • Collaborating and learning about others’ work using data 
  • Incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion principles in data services 
  • Including marginalized communities in data and technology 
  • Using data to advance human rights 
  • Applying, accessing, and communicating data in a responsible and ethical manner 
  • Increasing transparency and interactivity with the public 
  • Communicating the purpose of data (and ensuring there is one) 
  • Using data to facilitate conversations 
  • Learning the costs and benefits of machine learning and algorithms 
  • Acknowledging the non-neutrality of data and discussing the power, privilege, and bias that is often absent in conversations about data 
We conducted a survey to assess participants’ confidence and experience working with data. Participants in the session were able to learn more about the kinds of experiences their peers have had in collecting, working with, analyzing, stewarding, and communicating with data. Our participants: 
  • Bring the values of equity, honesty, integrity, collaboration, intentionality, and respect to their work
  • Were confident in their own data literacy 
  • Felt that they had some power in making decisions about data in their organization and their community 
  • Expressed more understanding of how decisions are made about data and technology in their own organization compared to the government or private companies 
  • Agreed that they were able to describe the importance of ethical and just data, but expressed less comfort with ethically justifying their decisions and advising others on ethics and justice in data use 
  • Have experience collecting data to fill a data gap, requesting data from other organizations, and designing a data collection tool
  • Have tried to learn more about the context of the data they worked with, have used data to tell a story, have created a data visualization, and have used data in a report or proposal 
  • Reflected on the impact of their representation of communities in data more than they have the experience of engaging community members using data  
  • Haven’t had to purchase data or a technology that collects data. They also lacked experience developing rules around how people use data and technology 
To conclude our workshop, we asked participants what they found most useful throughout the session. Responses centered on the expectations of respectful and inclusive participation in the series, comparing their experiences to others in the survey, and meeting one another.
In our next workshop, we will discuss data divides and missing data. Participants will learn why some data is captured. They’ll also understand the power that comes from deciding what is captured in data and what isn’t. Participants will be exposed to practices and approaches like counter-data collection, which can shift power to people that are often missed or overlooked in data. In a breakout session, everyone will work together to build a list of better practices that can close some of our data divides.
If you are interested in participating in the next cohort of our Data Literacy for Data Stewards peer learning series starting in the first quarter of 2023, email us at and we will let you know when registration is open.