Making Data Work for US(A)

The latest frontiers in data have given us more information than ever before, but haven’t made us more informed. While traditional statistics can give us a frozen picture of how things are in a given moment, dynamic data has the potential to track our world like a real-time movie. To realize this future, however, we need to significantly invest in collective action for data reform. This potential drew the United States and over 200 other UN member nations together to the first World Data Forum for Sustainable Development, hosted in Cape Town, South Africa. Leaders in data across the world came together and collaborated to identify what the current state of data means to us all, and the biggest barriers to data reform. The overarching question of the Forum was how to make data work to help nations pursue the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you’re unfamiliar, check out our blog by CollaborateUp CEO Richard Crespin on how the United States can take the SDGs and turn them into a tool to unleash American excellence.


The short version: we can take existing government work like the U.S. National Statistics for the SDGs and the DATA Act of 2014, to give our lawmakers at every level a potent tool – a Return on Investment (ROI) calculator to assess the effectiveness of new laws, regulations, and policies. With the Trump Administration and new Congress looking to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, data on SDG 9.2.2 (manufacturing employment as a proportion of total employment) could be linked to DATA Act spending data on the policies they propose to promote manufacturing jobs. This would allow policy makers to calculate the ROI by dividing the number of manufacturing jobs created (from SDG 9.2.2) by the amount of money spent on these policies (from information gathered through the DATA Act).


While collecting data on performance and dividing it by spending to efficacy-test policy may seem like common sense, these two initiatives are not even close to linked today. SDG driven data can enable better decision making at all levels of government, from states, counties, to even cities. Take, for example, the World Council on City Data’s ISO 37120 indicators. This kind of common voluntary data reporting can create a transparent marketplace of ideas and innovation that can enable individuals to improve their communities effectively. Right now, this kind of data is significantly undervalued, and as a result is doing us little to no good. Closing data gaps – the non-reporting or under-reporting of SDG data – should be a priority at all levels of government. While this is a fine idea for the public sector, we at CollaborateUp attended the Forum to find out how data reform could benefit all sectors – public, private, and civil – and how collaboration fits into the picture.


We helped to bring together two panels for the World Data Forum to tackle two subjects deeply intertwined with collaboration – titled “Data for Collective Action” and “New Data Frontiers”. We were honored to have panelists representing private enterprise, NGOs, local government, and international organizations discussing what barriers kept them from collectively acting on data, and the value that cutting-edge data could offer multi-sector partnerships. Together, their insights helped create recommendations and policies to address those challenges, which you can find here.


At the World Data Forum leaders from around the world issued repeated calls for standardization and data sharing, but until we change the policies and practices that make data sharing risky today only a few organizations will get on board. Repeated calls for data to “leave no one behind” are meaningless if we don’t create an enabling environment for open data in the United States. Together we possess an abundance of data resources, talent, and potential. We must use partnership as a powerful tool, and we must make it a priority in any national data reform. Enabling greater data accessibility, responsibility, literacy, usability, and philanthropy is in the best interests of the United States – but our organizations and institutions must show that, through collective action.

By Marcos Da Silva, Associate at CollaborateUp

Tackling 3 Myths Around Cost-Plus Contracting from our CEO and More >
Four Tips for Unlocking Creativity without Short-Circuiting Your Brain from our More >
  A Small Change to Avoid Big Mistakes from Groupthink by More >
Top Tips on Engaging Stakeholders from a Corporate Sustainability Pro Jessica More >
The course actually aids with more than just collaboration - it helps drive thinking into issue clarification, meeting handling and setting up, communicating with stakeholders. I loved it! - CollaborateUp Academy Participant
The course was great! Great value and great insights into collaborating with various partners in multiple situations. It really change my thought process and how I view situations with our clients and stakeholders. - CollaborateUp Academy Participant
Extremely practical and extremely easy to implement once you have an understanding of the steps and the formula and the requirements of the process. - CollaborateUp Academy Participant
I soon discovered that it doesn’t really matter whether your introduction to CollaborateUp is through an issue solving workshop, or at an event as Richard brings all the chaos together with his savvy charm and good humour - the most important thing is that you get to engage and work with these great folks! My biggest take out over the past five years of being a part of their world – collaboration is a process and you’re not going to get very far unless you know what problem you’re all trying to solve together. The CollaborateUp framework helps by asking simple questions to help reveal the big answers. - Cate O’Kane, Founder, &co partnership consultancy
"The CollaborateUp Workshop gave our delegates a set of tools they can use immediately to collaborate more effectively across multiple departments and organizations." - Erika Lopez, Global Impact
“Even with a diverse set of stakeholders and a very limited timeframe, the CollaborateUp Formula allowed us cut through a complex set of issues and develop a concrete and pragmatic proposal for tackling a very tough problem. Richard Crespin is exactly what you want in a facilitator, someone able to bring people together to recognize their shared goals and the best ways to achieve them.” - Amit Ronen Director, George Washington University Solar Institute
"Building up the capacity and capability of nonprofits to make a difference in the world is a core part of the Office Depot Foundation's mission. CollaborateUp had a really big impact on the nonprofits we support, giving them tools and insights they can use immediately." - Mary Wong