Beeck Data + Digital projects featured in Ideas That Transform series

October 13, 2020 – By Cori Zarek

Since 2014, the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University has led the way with new ideas and approaches to reimagine our institutions to ensure they are designed to serve the people who need them most. 

We know we can track our package or pizza delivery every step of the way, but not an application for unemployment insurance. The technology exists, it’s just not accessible to everyone—and of course public services are far more complicated than packages and pizzas. We’ve looked at many of these systems to understand the tools and practices needed to make them better so we can work with institutions to implement change. Our Data + Digital portfolio now features nearly 30 fellows, students, and staff, and has organized around three main pillars to reimagine and rebuild trust in our institutions: Public Interest Technology Field Building, Data for Impact, and Infrastructure for Opportunity.

In the coming weeks, we’re partnering with our collaborators to feature some of this work as part of the Beeck Center’s Ideas That Transform series—we hope you’ll join us to hear more about what we’ve been up to.

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Public Interest Technology Field Building

The past decade has seen the founding and rise of what our friends at the Ford Foundation and New America have identified as public interest technology—using the tools and practices of modern design, data, and technology to work toward better outcomes in society. As the field matures, we’ve been thinking a lot about  how to raise its profile for greater credibility, to support public interest technology workers through skills building and mentorship opportunities, and how to cultivate community among those of us doing this work. Here are a couple events where you can learn more about our Public Interest Tech Field Building work.

  • Book club: The Beeck Center’s Taylor Campbell talks with public interest tech leader Cyd Harrell on lessons from Cyd’s new book, A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide, on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 1pm ET. Taylor and Cyd will focus on ways that curious, passionate people who work in private-sector tech can become civic technologists and use their careers to make a different kind of impact. Register
  • Managing change: Transitions are a way of life in government—whether there’s a change in management, new policies to carry out, or even a new administration—and we’re bringing together colleagues who have navigated a number of government transitions with a focus on continued support for data and tech through those changes. Join us on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 1pm ET for this conversation. Register

Data for Impact

The Beeck Center has long known that data can drive economic prosperity, more effective policies, and help us measure what matters. In projects pressing for data-driven approaches at all levels of government and throughout communities, Beeck fellows have led the way to make the case for data as a priority and to train teams to best use data to carry out their work. Chief Data Officers in government have a critical role helping governments prioritize data as a way to achieve their policy goals, and since September 2019, the Beeck Center has been leading states in this work as the home of the State Chief Data Officers Network. We’ll feature their work in an event next week.

  • Data-driven recovery: Join Tyler Kleykamp and Katya Abazajian on Monday, Oct. 19 at 12:15pm ET for a conversation about how neighborhood data can support state and local economic recovery from this pandemic in an event held in partnership with Smart Cities Week. Register

Infrastructure for Opportunity

When our systems use leading-edge practices and tools, they’re better equipped to serve people and to make it easier for the workers administering them. From reimagining foster care licensing, to scaling tools to make it easier for families to apply for social safety net benefits, to developing open source software for high-priority policy needs like unemployment insurance and paid family leave, our fellows and partners are rebuilding the infrastructure we need for greater opportunity and better outcomes. Learn more about some of this work in these upcoming events.

  • Follow the money: Government technology policies and projects often come with big budgets and relatively little oversight—and, unsurprisingly, most fail. Beeck fellows Robin Carnahan and Waldo Jaquith spent four years at 18F pushing for better ways to budget for and oversee government tech projects to make them less risky and documented it in the recently released De-Risking Guide for government technology. Join them on Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 3pm ET for lessons that other government teams can adopt to avoid costly projects that don’t deliver. Register
  • Fostering better outcomes: Child welfare programs across the country help some of our country’s most vulnerable children and do so with limited resources. Non-governmental organizations such as Foster America and Think of Us work with partners, parents, and children to support and reimagine what’s possible. Beeck fellow Emily Tavoulareas has partnered with New America fellow Marina Nitze, these organizations, and public servants across the country to co-create the Child Welfare Playbook that captures tested best practices in a manner that is easy for others to adopt and replicate. Emily will facilitate a conversation with child welfare leaders on the results of recent field research examining how to improve life outcomes for youth of the foster system. Join us on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m. ET. Register

Through all of our efforts, we aim to work in the open and document what we find so others can learn from it and scale what works. We also work collaboratively with others—these efforts rely on entire ecosystems to be successful and we aim to convene and coordinate networks and communities of practice to work together for greater impact. Finally, we know this work is never done, so we invite you to pull up a chair and hear what we’ve been up to through this series and we look forward to adding more chairs at the table so we can do this important work together.

Cori Zarek is the Director of the Data + Digital portfolio at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation. Follow her at @corizarek.

August 26, 2020 – By Katya Abazajian

A pandemic may seem like the worst time to fix slow-changing, infrastructural data challenges, but there is no better time to begin correcting systems that just aren’t working. 

Chief Data Officers (CDOs) manage critical data infrastructure that helps states innovate and make data-driven policy decisions. Earlier this month, we published Leveraging Data for Economic Recovery, a report showing how CDOs can focus their work to guide states to equitable economic recoveries. But within state governments, CDOs often struggle to make the case for sustainable data reforms when there are more pressing demands on frontline workers.

Data is an essential asset states should use to make emergency response processes more effective and efficient. Through responsible data-sharing, advanced analytics, and publishing robust open data, states can leverage data as critical infrastructure for disaster recovery.  

Many states have set up centralized COVID data dashboards that serve as the main source of information for CDC reporting and national COVID tracking by civic hackers and journalists. Based on conversations with states, we’ve found that while some dashboards have been developed in coordination with data teams’ best practices, others used ad hoc, paper-based processes to gather and publish data from public health officials. This means in states where cross-agency data sharing is not common practice, public health agencies have had to establish new information sharing processes on top of the existing strain of the health crisis. 

While national data-sharing configurations continue to evolve, states are left to fend for themselves in determining what needs to be collected, by whom, and for whom.

Many states develop mechanisms for data-sharing based on internal legal guidance that may or may not not mirror decisions made by other states. This introduces discrepancies in different states’ interpretations of what data is considered public or private, particularly with regards to sensitive health data. During COVID, each state has had to develop its own solutions for data challenges.  

Suddenly, public health agencies need immediate, open channels of communication and data-sharing across departments to inform how schools, employers, social safety net providers, and other practitioners are supporting disaster recovery. 

The CDO role has proven essential to developing multi-agency emergency response functions to COVID-19 in states that have leveraged their data capacity to enable collaboration. CDOs bring exactly the kind of systemic expertise on data use that governors and executive decision-makers need in order to empower quick action and collaboration as the pandemic’s effects continue to shift. 

CDOs can implement the steps outlined in Leveraging Data for Economic Recovery to find key opportunities to open up data-sharing across agencies. They can also champion internal cultural shifts that will allow public servants across agencies to work better together through open data and data-driven decision-making. 

Often, the changes that public servants need to see in their data systems require adapting tech procurement language and shifting data collection processes. CDOs are particularly well-positioned to advise on these decisions alongside Chief Information Officers (CIOs) by streamlining which tools and data best practices are being applied and replicated across government agencies. 

Not only is better internal data use essential for improving the efficiency and efficacy of states’ public systems, but open data and public communication around information are becoming increasingly crucial for navigating the national crisis. Journalists and advocates have demanded better data reporting on racial and ethnic disparities in the effects of social policies and programs and the spread of COVID-19. But states often lack the data capacity to even collect the right data to report these statistics from the ground up. Resolving these challenges and allowing CDOs to inform how data is collected across agencies will require a fundamental shift in how data is treated as critical infrastructure in state government.  

City officials like Beeck Center Fellow Amen Ra Mashariki, former Chief Analytics Officer in the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics in New York City, were the first to pilot the idea of “data drills,” a nod to the fact that just as emergency systems need to be primed for immediate response, data systems need to be primed for effective use in an emergency. Running data drills can be as simple as setting up theoretical scenarios in which data owners across departments are tested on protocols and best practices for gathering and disseminating data in an emergency. This kind of systemic thinking about how to apply data in the long-run can help states integrate data use into other emergency response functions. 

The key to better collaboration in a pandemic is enabling sustainable frameworks for data-sharing, integration, analytics, and open data. States must advance in how they are applying data in order to be prepared for the next natural disaster. And CDOs have a crucial role to play in bringing states up to speed on innovative data uses for public good. 

Katya Abazajian is a researcher with the State Chief Data Officers Network at the Beeck Center. Follow her at @katyaabaz.

August 10, 2020 – By Katya Abazajian + Tyler Kleykamp

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, state governments have used data to respond to real-time needs for critical information. Every day, governors review data and visualizations to react to the evolving challenges of the pandemic. As we learned from state Chief Data Officers in May, CDOs are working overtime to create the dashboards that governors use and share with the public, map food distribution sites, and integrate testing and hospitalization data across disparate sources. 

While state governments must react to immediate, shifting conditions on a daily basis, they’re left with little time to plan for economic recovery from the fallout. As of June, over 30 million Americans had filed jobless claims. Early reports of economic impacts outline tough times for small businesses, renters, working parents seeking childcare, food insecure households, and others in vulnerable situations. To account for these staggering shifts, states’ recovery efforts must be sustainable, infrastructural, and forward-looking. 


cover of leveraging data for economic recovery: A roadmap for statesREAD THE FULL REPORT


Policy makers need to decide how to respond to each new wave of the virus over the coming years. They’ll need to understand how separate social programs interact with one another, when cutting support to one system may overburden another. States should lean heavily on data to make these difficult decisions on the path toward economic recovery.

cover of Social Safety Net Benefits report
Beeck Center report on Social Safety Net benefits

States that have begun long-term recovery planning are doing so under a framework that was created after Hurricane Katrina nearly 15 years ago and predates the existence of state CDOs along with other modern data and digital service approaches. While we know that the pandemic has disproportionately affected poor communities and communities of color, we still don’t know what the long-term effects will be on these communities. By improving the way they use data, states can go beyond restoring the pre-pandemic conditions that enabled these disproportionate impacts to an environment that supports equity and mobility from poverty.

Leveraging Data for Economic Recovery: A Roadmap for States is a guide to rebuild the system to be better than it was before. The roadmap is initially focused on four main areas where data can be used in recovery efforts: workforce and education, health and benefits, neighborhood well-being, and budget reallocation. Each of these areas contains a series of use cases where states are uniquely positioned to leverage their data or policy making ability to improve recovery efforts. Some use cases outlined in the report should be feasible and actionable across states, while others require stronger enabling conditions that could shift the landscape of data use for economic recovery. Busting silos and enabling better statewide collaboration remains key to ensuring that public servants across agencies can build on and support each others’ efforts. This report not only points CDOs toward the future of their work, but outlines the powerful assets that CDOs already have at their disposal.

State CDOs play a critical role in advancing on the road to recovery. The role has proven essential to developing multi-agency emergency response functions to COVID-19 and will continue to be crucial in coordinating statewide data-driven plans for economic recovery. CDOs can implement the steps outlined in the roadmap by building more sustainable frameworks for collaboration and consulting on technical issues such as data integration, visualization, or privacy. However, CDOs need support. CDOs need comprehensive data sharing agreements and support in shifting states toward more data-driven culture to run successful data programs. Top-level leaders, including governors, must commit to leveraging data as critical infrastructure for COVID-19 response and recovery. This roadmap provides them with clear steps to take on that path.

Katya Abazajian is a researcher for the State Chief Data Officers Network, and an affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Follow her at @katyaabaz.

Tyler Kleykamp is a Beeck Center Fellow and Director of the State Chief Data Officers Network. Follow him at @tkleykamp.

June 9, 2020 | By Tyler Kleykamp

As the world becomes increasingly digital, what’s become clear for both the public and private sector is that data needs a leader. Since 2010, states have been establishing Chief Data Officer (CDO) roles and most major cities and large federal agencies have them as well. As the number of CDOs has grown to over 25, and the size of their teams have increased, the role has evolved and matured from being primarily focused on open data, to ensuring data is shared and used effectively across their states.

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent protests against police brutality highlight the unique role the state government plays and how it directly impacts people’s lives. Data is already in the spotlight and will play a critical role in how states recover from the pandemic and address systemic racism if leveraged properly. For years, Connecticut has been collecting traffic stop data in an effort to determine whether drivers are being stopped due to racial profiling. A growing number of states are providing COVID-19 case data broken out by race, illuminating the disproportionate toll the virus has taken on communities of color. States must also recognize that years of systemic and structural racism has resulted in overrepresentation of racial and ethnic groups within their data systems. With their ability to engage across agencies and departments, the CDO will be a hub for state governments moving forward.

cover of report: The Evolving Role of the State Chief Data Officer
Read the full report

The goal of the State Chief Data Officers Network is to surface and scale best practices and opportunities for collaboration across states. We also aim to support states in the creation of a CDO role. This means we need to better define what the CDO roles and responsibilities are. While there are case studies and playbooks to support CDOs in various levels of government, most aren’t geared toward the unique challenges states face. City CDOs are often focused on open data and analytics. Federal CDOs roles are generally defined by the Foundations for Evidence Based Policy Act. To help states improve their use of data, the State CDO Network created a core framework to guide them in structuring effective data programs.

Through the insights collected from state CDOs since November, and drawing upon resources from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Results for America, six core elements of a successful state data program have emerged:

  • LEAD – Designate an executive level data leader as the Chief Data Officer
  • PLAN – Create a strategy, governance structure, and inventory of data
  • BUILD – Increase the capacity of stakeholders to effectively use data
  • SHARE – Establish clear and predictable processes for data sharing
  • ANALYZE – Provide mechanisms and platforms to enable data integration and analysis
  • SUSTAIN – Ensure ongoing support exists for data efforts

To implement this framework, we’ve created two tools states can use. The Evolving Role of a State Chief Data Officer will help policymakers and state CDOs alike shape the role and responsibility of a CDO. State Data Policy Options is a guidebook with examples of effective legislation from states that can be used to support efforts to implement this framework. The policy options will grow over time as states continue implementing effective solutions.

States don’t need to implement this framework all at once. Rather, it should be used as a roadmap to help them mature in their use of data over time. Just as the CDO role has evolved since its inception, it’s likely this framework will too. These tools will help get states moving in the right direction.

Tyler Kleykamp is a Beeck Center Fellow and Director of the State Chief Data Officers Network. Follow him at @tkleykamp.

May 21, 2020 | By Tyler Kleykamp

The COVID-19 pandemic affects each state differently, but data is a valuable asset and state Chief Data Officers are taking on increasingly central roles as the crisis evolves. Creating the dashboards that governors use everyday, troubleshooting state unemployment insurance systems, and even supporting secure access to data in the shift to remote work are just a few ways CDOs are scrubbing into COVID response.

Last week, the Beeck Center hosted its second convening of the State Chief Data Officers Network. Twenty-five of the nation’s state CDOs gathered from their home offices to share experiences and collaborate on ways to further leverage data to support recovery. In times of crisis, community support is critical. Deepening the connections with their peers builds morale knowing they’re not alone in their journey. “It’s good to know others are going through similar throes as I am” one CDO commented as we wrapped up.

screenshot of Zoom meeting with 24 attendees
Members of the State CDO Network gathered on May 12-13, 2020 to discuss their work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s happening in state-level data?
Every state is using data to communicate with the public using online dashboards and in governors’ briefings. Every number produced for the public represents infrastructure and analytical capabilities behind the scenes, often orchestrated by CDOs. What might be less noticeable is that state governments also had to ensure the integrity of state data as they quickly set up remote work environments for offices that were unaccustomed to operating remotely. Ensuring state employees had access to the data and systems they need to continue providing critical services was a key early focus. As the pandemic’s effects spread outside of the public health threat, the CDOs’ roles grew to supporting unemployment insurance call centers and small business loan applications. As states plan for reopening, CDOs are measuring economic impacts, supporting contact tracing efforts, and developing dashboards to show progress toward meeting reopening milestones.

“Map Everything!”
As in real estate, location may be the most critical aspect of the pandemic response, and one CDO’s advice was “map everything!” Creating the maps that show the spread of the disease, where vulnerable populations exist, and where to get tested have been central to state efforts. Beyond disease-specific issues, CDOs are supporting mapping of critical facilities like child care, transportation hubs, and food banks. These resources help both governments and the people they serve understand where services exist, where there are gaps, and how to support the people who need it most.

screenshot of Pennsylvania Hospital Preparedness Dashboard
Hospital Preparedness Dashboard from the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Coordination is Critical
As the pandemic grew across states, the use of data increased far beyond testing and case counts. Initially it was availability of personal protective equipment and documenting hospital capacity, but expanded to data on prisons, businesses, and employment. These data come from a variety of different departments in states, and having a CDO to coordinate across agencies has been vital. CDOs often found themselves in a coordination role, ensuring that subject-matter experts were able to access the data they needed to support their work. Some states have “agency data officers” who are a single point of contact for data issues in a department. This structure helps streamline data discovery and access in states. Where states lack this structure, CDOs facilitate conversations directly with the individuals that manage specific data sources within a department.

For state CDOs, the pandemic highlighted the need for umbrella data sharing agreements in states. COVID-19 didn’t wait for states to develop the legal infrastructure necessary to share data, and the next crisis won’t either.


cover of Sharing Data for Social Impact reportWant to learn how best to share data with other organizations? Download “Sharing Data for Social Impact: Guidebook for Sharing Responsible Governance Practices” from Beeck Center Fellow Natalie Evans Harris.


With an economic crisis bearing down and a second wave of the disease looming, data-driven decisions are now at the forefront of policies and actions taken by states. Arizona’s Jeff Wolkove pointed out, “the data ‘nice-to-haves’ of a few months ago are now mission critical and we should leverage this opportunity to build what we need for the future.” In particular, centralized access to data resources solved many challenges. State governments are also going to need to become more agile. We’re still learning about the diverse impacts on state operations resulting from the pandemic, and the ability to adapt quickly to changes will be imperative.

As states transition from response to recovery, and prepare for a potential additional waves of the pandemic, CDOs brainstormed ways they can support their states. This exercise generated nearly 300 ideas in under 20 minutes. Three themes emerged:

  1. Relationships matter. Data sharing is built on trust, and ensuring that the departments and individuals they work with trust them to use data responsibly will accelerate the state’s ability to share data.
  2. “Demos not memos.” This is the mantra of the Beeck Center’s State Software Collaborative, and it seems CDOs are of the same mindset. Quickly prototyping data dashboards on potential emerging issues can help state leaders understand what’s possible and help surface any underlying barriers so they can be addressed early on.
  3. Know your data. An inventory of what data each department collects, what information the data contains, and who can access the data will help states be better prepared. This information also lets states begin to map out various data sources and start developing processes and infrastructure necessary to pull data together in advance. For example, CDOs are expecting greater demand for data on economic impact, and vaccine distribution in the future.

State CDOs continue to step up and support their states in new ways, and at the Beeck Center we are committed to highlighting those efforts so they can be replicated across the country. We published best practices on using data for COVID response and are building a roadmap to address recovery related issues and use cases for states. The State CDO Network will continue to convene online and we look forward to meeting in-person when it’s safe to do so.

Tyler Kleykamp is a Beeck Center Fellow and Director of the State Chief Data Officers Network. He is the former Chief Data Officer for the State of Connecticut and you can follow him at @tkleykamp.

April 30, 2020 | By Tyler Kleykamp 

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the critical role data plays in keeping the public informed and keeping ahead of the crisis. On a daily basis, governors report on new data related to COVID-19 cases, hospital caseload, and weekly jobless claims. The pandemic also shows the importance of integrating data sets across agencies and programs. For instance, the new Pandemic EBT program needs to match data so that families who are losing access to free and reduced-price meals at school can continue receiving important nutritional resources at home. 

The 25 state Chief Data Officers (CDOs) across the country who make up the State Chief Data Officers Network are stepping up to support their states’ efforts to use data. Whether accounting for supplies of personal protective equipment, noting which hospitals are nearing capacity, or reporting accurate testing data to the public, state CDOs play an important role in improving how data is shared and used.

Adopting effective practices in the COVID-19 response will help states move from crisis to recovery. Right now states are focused on sharing data about testing, infection rates in nursing homes and correctional facilities, and unemployment. In the future, state leaders will need the right data to inform policies on how to best reopen child care centers, economic sectors, and schools.

Our review of State of the State speeches found that data was rarely mentioned, and often not at all. Now, virtually every governor is basing their decisions on when to reopen state economies on data. If state leaders want to ensure that they have data readily available to support their decisions, the status quo won’t help them. We don’t have six months to negotiate one-off data sharing agreements, and we can’t continue keeping data in silos.

What can state leaders do to advance their use of data? The State CDO Network has issued a report on best practices to improve states’ ability to share and use data:

  1. If a state doesn't have a CDO role, appoint one. We've crafted guidance on establishing a CDO role and compiled a selection of sample job descriptions. We're available to support states, so please reach out.Coordinate data management. Establish an interagency data coordinating body, ideally led by the Chief Data Officer (CDO). 
  2. Remove barriers to data sharing. Several states like Arizona and California are leveraging enterprise memorandums of agreement (MOA) to create streamlined and transparent legal processes necessary for data sharing. 
  3. Make data discoverable. Even when data is protected, the information about what data each state agency has are generally not. Virginia recently released a public metadata catalog detailing the data holdings of many of its agencies
  4. Format data to be useful. Ensure any data exchanged is in a machine-readable format (searchable, sortable, and digital) at the finest level of granularity allowed by law that’s necessary for the intended use. 
  5. Centralize data access across agencies. Indiana and North Carolina have statewide data warehouses that can readily secure new sources of data and make them available to appropriate individuals for analysis. Data that can be shared within government should be accessible through a centralized clearinghouse or repository. 
  6. Publish public data as open data. When data is public, make sure it’s available through the state’s open data website. Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York are publishing COVID-19 and other related datasets on their open data portals.
    screenshot of Connecticut data site
    Map of Health Facilities in Connecticut. Via data.ct.gov

    PDFs and Dashboards are great for communicating top-level findings, but should be accompanied by machine-readable data.

  7. Lead with the analysis. Not everyone is comfortable with or has the time to work with raw data. State leaders and the public often need easily digestible information at their fingertips. Readily available reports and dashboards can help people answer questions quickly. Maryland’s COVID-19 website provides easy access to top level statistics.

With executive support, Chief Data Officers can play a critical role in supporting emergencies like COVID-19 by using their centralized position to get the right data to the right people in a timely fashion. As state governments adjust to remote work, these practices will improve the way agencies communicate about and use data. It will also better prepare states for any future outbreaks that may impact the people and families they serve. 

READ THE FULL REPORT

Tyler Kleykamp leads the State CDO Network for the Beeck Center, and is the former Chief Data Officer for the State of Connecticut. Follow him on Twitter at @TKleykamp

November 22, 2019 | By Tyler Kleykamp

In an era where states often compete with one another for jobs, economic development, or federal funding, the spirit of cooperation was at the forefront last week as the Beeck Center gathered the nation’s state Chief Data Officers (CDOs) together for the first time. States are increasingly naming CDOs to serve in executive roles to influence the way states collect, maintain, and operationalize data to improve services for the public as well as to build efficiencies and effectiveness into internal systems. 

At Georgetown, the CDOs spent two days sharing challenges and successes and identifying opportunities to collaborate with one another. While they had been meeting monthly via conference call for years, this is the first time they had all been together in person. Sixteen CDOs attended, representing all but one state that has a formally established CDO role, and including one CDO who had only been on the job for five days. 

Group shot of state CDOs
State CDOs met in person for the first time at Georgetown on Nov. 12-13, 2019.

“You have to lead with value.”

The CDOs opened the meeting by sharing successes from the previous year. Examples included technology implementations like data integration platforms and improving public availability of data as well as cultural changes such as creating agency data officers and enhancing data literacy. They also discussed broad issues related to their core responsibilities and how they’ve overcome some of the challenges associated with the job, resulting in some central themes. First, relationships matter. It was clear that building trust with their partner agencies is critical and CDOs must demonstrate that they are enabling the agencies and personnel they work with to better leverage data. As one CDO said, “You have to lead with value.” Mandates and more heavy-handed approaches to data sharing can easily make their job more challenging, but they must also demonstrate the ability to handle data in responsible and legally compliant ways. 

A second theme was the amount of friction that occurs in sharing and using data. Much of this is necessary to ensure that sensitive data remains protected and that its use is legally compliant, while other issues are related to the data itself. Issues like data quality, lack of standards, or common identifiers present challenges. CDOs shared how they’ve streamlined or standardized legal agreements and ways they’ve dealt with more technical challenges — but it was clear that more can be done. One solution was having dedicated legal support for CDOs. “Having an attorney who ‘gets it’ and can speak the language of other attorneys has been critical,” shared one CDO.

A primary goal of the convening was to strengthen personal connections among CDOs in additional to building their professional relationships. A rapid-fire question-and-answer session allowed CDOs to explore emerging data issues like artificial intelligence, geospatial data, and new data protection laws. This matchmaking exercise quickly identified common issues they are thinking about so they could follow up afterward. Another mechanism to encourage more personal relationships was through “speed networking,” pairing people for short one-on-one meetings, providing an opportunity for individual conversations in a less formal setting, and setting them up to feel more comfortable working collaboratively in the future.

woman and man standing in conversation
CDOs Ed Kelly (Texas) and Julia Fischer (Maryland) engaged in conversation during an afternoon break.

A CDO’s job is big, but they consistently expressed a need to start small. They discussed surfacing discrete use cases and immediate steps they can take in their states to equip them with techniques they can apply immediately. For example, pulling together public data into a GIS map to better understand risks to children, or conducting an inventory of data that can inform an issue are great places to start. 

Another approach was to break the CDOs into smaller groups to identify specific policy areas important to their states to identify common priorities which surfaced issues like workforce opportunities, reducing opioid-related deaths, and improving child welfare. The groups established ways they can leverage their role or data to make a positive impact immediately, and identified opportunities that may be more challenging where additional support and facilitation from partners like the Beeck Center could move the needle further. 

Woman sits between two men at a round table in conversation
CDOs John Correllus (North Carolina) and Rhonda Lehman (Delaware) discuss public policy priorities with Eric Sweden of the National Association of Chief Information Officers.

Working collaboratively with the Beeck Center team, CDOs identified a broad array of high impact items that can boost their work including: 

  • templates for data sharing agreements or data inventories
  • repositories of documents or information
  • more in-depth research on technology solutions and best practices 

The exercise demonstrated the value that the Beeck Center can bring to this emerging field and allows us to prioritize the creation of high impact tools.

Sticky notes on easel paper to represent a matrix
At the convening, CDOs identified tools that could support their efforts and ranked them based on the impact they could have and the effort necessary to produce them.

Another approach with this group was to include expert lightning talks to demonstrate big ideas to use data for social impact including better serving the most vulnerable individuals in emergencies, reducing recidivism, preventing lead poisoning, improving elections, and enhancing child welfare. These plug-and-play solutions have shown promise in some jurisdictions and are ready for wider adoption by other states. Additionally, a panel of city, state, and federal government officials explored opportunities for collaboration and discussed where states can make a unique impact with data including through improvements in educational outcomes and access to jobs.

State CDOs are doing incredible work in their states, and at the Beeck Center we are committed to highlighting those successes so they can be replicated across the country. We’re getting started immediately on building a CDO toolkit that will include resources both highlighted at this convening and activated elsewhere and will support CDOs in their commitments to sharing resources such as legal agreements with the network. 

The Beeck Center will continue to convene this network both in person and online through webinars and other touchpoints and we look forward to welcoming in the next wave of CDOs as seven states recruit for these roles and hopefully join the network. The role of the State CDO Network will remain focused on keeping the momentum going until we meet again, which one CDO declared, “…is absolutely the one event I have to go to.”

 

Tyler Kleykamp is the Director of the State Chief Data Officers Network at the Beeck Center. He was previously the CDO for the State of Connecticut from 2014-2019 and led many of the early calls and connections among state CDOs.


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The Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University today announced a new initiative to support state governments in their efforts to better use data in support of public policy and service delivery with the creation of the State Chief Data Officer Network. The Network connects top-level data leadership, facilitating sharing best practices in the use of data at the state level.

The Chief Data Officer (CDO) position is relatively new in state government. Colorado was the first to create the position in 2011, and today 25 states and the District of Columbia have a CDO or comparable position. As a first step in launching the network, the Beeck Center is hosting all of the current state CDOs on campus at Georgetown University for two days of robust discussions and knowledge sharing.

“The Beeck Center focuses on scaling promising grassroot efforts so they will ultimately change systems and institutions,” said Nate Wong, Executive Director, Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University. “The value of data officers in public technology has been understated. Bringing State CDOs together under one roof will create stronger ideas, improved coordination, and ultimately showcase the need for this role in all 50 states.”

Beeck Center Fellow Tyler Kleykamp, the former CDO of Connecticut, joined Georgetown University in September to lead the State CDO Network. “Using data to identify areas to target solutions for social issues like opioid addiction, child welfare, and economic mobility is a growing need across the country, and the members of this network bring a wealth of experience and success to share with each other.” 

Without strong data management and oversight, information can’t be put to its strongest purpose. Connecting State CDOs, creates a consistent vehicle to communicate emerging successes and exchange effective strategies related to the cultural, legal, and technological challenges associated with leveraging data as a strategic asset, ultimately providing better services to the public. For example:

  • Indiana built a data display providing access to local, regional and statewide data to inform talent attraction, development, and connection strategies
  • Utah published 6 years of executive office spending into Spending.Utah.gov and provided 10 years of checkbook data from cities, counties, school districts, universities and other public entities on OpenData.Utah.gov
  • Washington, DC completed an Open Data Handbook for DC Agencies to follow 
screenshot of Indiana's 21st Century Talent Regions Data Display
View of Indiana’s 21st Century Talent Regions Data Display

The State CDO Network is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, and aims to:

  • Identify successful efforts and strategies used by states to leverage and integrate data that might scale to other states
  • Discover priority issues in states where data can be better utilized to drive policy and service delivery
  • Support the work state CDOs produce through playbooks, templates, models, or toolkits
  • Inspire other states to adopt the role of CDO

The State CDO Network is part of the Beeck Center’s Digital Service Collaborative, a project in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation that is supporting efforts focused on leveraging data and digital services for better outcomes.