Wrapping up our first Responsible Data cohort learning programme 

Cathy Richards

We just finished the pilot of our new cohort learning programme, designed to equip social justice leaders with the knowledge and tools needed for implementing responsible data! Back in April, my colleague Bárbara wrote about the first half of the programme and in this blog post, I’m sharing updates and learnings as we wrap up this pilot.


Our hope for this programme was for participants to not just understand why practising Responsible Data is important, but also to get a sense of what RD actually looks like in their day-to-day work. With this in mind, in the last two weeks of the programme we shifted to more practical applications of responsible data in participants’ work. 

In the fourth session we became ‘RAD’ and covered how to map an organisation’s data and set up practices for data retention, archival and deletion (RAD). Participants walked away with templates and processes that they can continue to iterate on with their teams and incorporate into their own organisational processes. 

In the fifth session we talked about how participants can begin to think about their data and RD practices at the systems level, using assessment frameworks to determine where they were at currently, developing plans for next steps, and determining progress made. We also took some time to talk about how participants will incorporate these new learnings into tech tool selection. 


During the course, I was able to chat with some of the participants individually, through one-on-one calls. Originally, the purpose of these calls was to provide additional Responsible Data guidance outside of class time for those that were interested. However, these calls also opened my eyes to the amazing work already being done by our participants. More about this in our next blog post!

Making everyday tweaks to how teams work with data, and celebrating “tiny victories”, can be powerful moves toward establishing a sustainable RD approach    

For some participants, their next step will be to get their team and peer organisations more involved and to get buy-in for moves towards more robust RD practices. For these organisations, sharing the importance of RD and implementing small, immediate actions that will give the organisation ‘tiny wins’ may provide the momentum for the organisation to continue to move forward. 

For example, while thinking through their RAD plan in Module 4 – which asked participants to think about the what, who, how and why of their data processes – one organisation mentioned that simply acknowledging and looking at the potential unintended consequences of working with data was in itself an invaluable process and extremely eye-opening. 

Not a checklist: seeing responsible data as an ongoing practice

As part of the final module, we asked participants to plan out the data journey they intended to take after completing the course. Participants planned out their short-, mid-, and long term goals, but more importantly also acknowledged that their participation in this programme was just a part of the journey, and that there was still much work to be done. 

One organisation planned to speak to their funders in order to make sure they were aligned when it came to data collection and sharing. By remaining cognizant of the fact that adopting responsible data practices is a continuous learning process, and by prioritising daily practice over achieving a final ‘endpoint’, organisations can continue to make progress.

Taking one step at a time and getting ready to dive deeper 

I found that although many organisations have already begun practising responsible data (RD) in some capacity, they often lack clear guidance and resources to take their efforts to the next level. For example, while preparing RAD plans together in Module 4 we learned that many of our participants had already developed guidelines around the data they collect, but could benefit from more information on securing and deleting it. In Module 5, we dived further into what implementing these changes might look like when it comes to the platforms participants are using, or could be using, in their day to day work.


In the coming weeks you can expect to hear from us on how we put this programme together, as well as our learnings from the experience. We’ll also go into the factors that went into the selection of the topic and participants, as well as considerations around the technologies used.  

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Image by Ian Dooley via Unsplash.


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