Aug 12 2021

New ‘Data Labs’ Program Will Help States on Data- Driven Recovery Projects

The program, from the National Governors Association and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, aims to create a foundation for evidence-based policymaking.

The coronavirus pandemic has spurred state and local governments to address the public health crisis and challenges through cloud-based data collection and analysis. At the same time, it has exposed deep issues within society, including the persistent digital divide.

Now, a new partnership between the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University and the National Governors Association is aiming to help states recover from the pandemic via data-driven projects.

The program, Data Labs: Roadmap to Recovery, is designed to spark “collaboration between data and policy experts, empowering state governments to use data more effectively, efficiently, and equitably,” according to the program’s website. The areas the program is focusing on include housing and homelessness, small business support, higher education, and workforce support.

“We’re really looking to equip states with an actionable plan to address one of these four issues,” Tyler Kleykamp, a Beeck Center fellow and director of the state chief data officers network, tells StateScoop. “I almost look at it as these are things people would be doing over email, and if we can just bring them together for some focused activity around this in developing this plan, that they’ll actually be set up for success to implement it.”

States to Get Support for Data-Driven Initiatives

The pandemic “highlighted the critical role states play in delivering services to those who need them,” the Beeck Center notes, and, as such “state governments need more coordinated and innovative economic response and recovery efforts.”

The goal of the program is not only to give states the tools they need to make more data-informed decisions around policymaking but also to enable them to conduct “more evidence-based operations and policy making in the future.”

Applications for the program are due Aug. 13, and the Beeck Center envisions the program running from September through April 2022.

The Data Labs program will be “tailored to each state’s specific needs, allow for peer-to-peer learning, and amplify best practices and tactical examples of how other states have addressed similar challenges,” according to the center.

The program will enable participants to spend one to two hours per week participating in virtual activities as they move through the program’s phases, and there will be opportunities for asynchronous discussion and shared learning among participants.

The Beeck Center’s program managers will guide state teams through six phases:

  1. Defining their data challenge and figuring out the problem they are trying to solve
  2. Conducting an inventory of available data to determine which data states have and which data they need
  3. Evaluating potential solutions
  4. Establishing governance so projects can be operationalized
  5. Drafting action plans
  6. Developing best practices in implementation and getting projects off the ground

While states have developed data dashboards and other data-driven projects over the course of the pandemic, many still lack a deep bench of data experts, according to Kleykamp, who served five years as the chief data officer of Connecticut.

“I don’t think it’s any secret states have a hard time bringing in the analytic or data-science type of talent to work on some of this stuff,” he tells StateScoop. “[This is] really bridging the gap between the people who are more in the policymaking positions and the data people to get them working a little more hand-in-glove on some issues.”

RELATED: Minneapolis has been a pioneer in developing dynamic data dashboards.

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