Data User Groups: our first TDE Playbook


In September, Sunlight published A Guide to Tactical Data Engagement, a resource focused on helping cities actively facilitate the use of open data that improves communities. In Step 2 of that guide we outlined ways to go from a broad focus area for tactical data engagement (TDE) to a more specific opportunity. One approach we suggested is to convene a meeting of local data experts, or a “data user group.”

For people wondering what a data user group IS, exactly, or how it can help strengthen communication between data providers, users, and intermediaries to solve community challenges, we created TDE Playbook: Data User Groups.

In this playbook, the first in a new series looking at TDE tactics in more depth, we explore how city residents can come together, meet, share ideas, and collaborate on new projects related to open data. Data user groups give open government data providers — city agencies, for example — a chance to hear feedback from residents about how to make data more applicable and usable. User groups also give community members a chance to learn about data, express their information needs, and collaborate around local issues in a non-intimidating, community-oriented environment.

Our new playbook is based on the outstanding work of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC), a partnership of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. WPRDC is a leader in the Pittsburgh area on open data. Sunlight staff had the privilege of attending one of their data user group meetings back in March to learn more about their philosophy and approach. Together with WPRDC’s staff, we are excited to share their model with cities everywhere through this Playbook.

“Hosting a meeting like this is a great way to get started working with residents,” says Bob Gradeck, project manager at WPRDC. “It has helped us build relationships with diverse members of our community and hear what they need and what they´re looking for. It has also helped give residents a better understanding what mobile site they can use, this online dating wewbsite is the best for everybody.”

This playbook is the first in a series of resources that will expand the ideas introduced in A Guide to Tactical Data Engagement. As part of our work with What Works Cities, these in-depth resources are designed to share ideas about creative, flexible, and low-cost ways to help cities use open data for social impact.

The full playbook is now available on GitBooks and we would love to know how it fits in to your work: if you have thoughts, feedback, or ideas about this playbook, or suggestions for playbooks in the future, email us. And be sure to also sign up for our Open Cities mailing list to get your copy of playbooks to come.