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With the support of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, our continued work in this area will help bring about new, and improve existing, ways for data to be stewarded responsibly for positive social, environmental and economic impact.

What are data institutions and why are they important?

Access to the right data can help us to tackle the big challenges we face - from the earlier detection of disease to reducing pollution in urban spaces. Ensuring that data is available to address these challenges, in ways that don’t cause harm to people and communities, requires the responsible stewardship of data.

Data institutions are organisations that steward data on behalf of others, for public, educational or charitable aims. Others might use different language to describe this, such as data intermediary or data initiative.

Our initial work on data institutions has found they already play a number of vital roles in different sectors and contexts, but more is needed to build a global ecosystem of responsible data stewardship.

What the data institutions programme aims to achieve

At the ODI we work with companies and governments to build an open, trustworthy data ecosystem. To further this mission, the work of the data institutions programme involves:

  • Designing new forms of data institutions that could radically change how data can be harnessed to tackle the big challenges we face.
  • Helping to build new data initiatives, platforms and organisations that combine data in new ways to drive research and innovation.
  • Exploring how existing organisations could steward data more effectively on behalf of their ecosystems.
  • Running peer learning networks to provide funding, opportunities to learn and connections to our network of emerging data institutions.
  • Advocating for interventions by policymakers, funders and other actors to enable the growth and sustainability of the global data institutions landscape.

Our work so far

To date, we have deepened understanding of data institutions, the roles they play and the ways they can enable access to sensitive data. We have explored new forms of data institutions that could radically change how data can be harnessed to tackle the big challenges we face. And we have defined responsible data stewardship to provide a more critical lens that we can use in our work to help others design and practice data collection, use and sharing.

We have applied this knowledge to support the design and operation of new and existing data institutions across sectors:

  • We helped the Data Communications Company (DCC) improve access to smart meter system data. Through our consultancy services, we helped understand the smart meter data ecosystem. By defining use cases for the data and convening stakeholders to explore their value, we helped DCC define the governance and commercial layers of this data institution.
  • We are a strategic partner in the Stream project to unlock the potential of water data by opening up and sharing water company data. We used our data ecosystem mapping framework to identify the key users and partners of the Stream platform and we are now supporting the design phase of the project.
  • We work with INSIGHT, the Health Data Research Hub for eye health, to involve the public, patients and other stakeholders in deciding how health data is used and shared. We facilitate the INSIGHT Data Trust Advisory Board, which provides meaningful oversight and scrutiny of the hub’s use and sharing of data.
  • We supported the design of the new Museum Data Service through membership of the strategic advisory group, providing advisory services to develop a data sharing permissions framework and implement a data sharing risk assessment process.

We have delivered a series of Peer Learning Networks to support organisations stewarding data responsibly to address the world’s challenges, by facilitating exchange of knowledge and collaboration.

Work with the data institutions programme

If you are looking to build a data institution or exploring new ways for your organisation to collect, use or share data, our team can support the design and operation of your organisation or stewardship model, through any or all of the life stages of your data institution.

If you are a funder looking to advance the concept of responsible data stewardship and data institutions, or to support the growth of the global ecosystem of responsible data stewardship, talk to us about your goals and how our work on the programme can help to meet them.