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How do Data Collabs work?

Updated: Nov 1

Data Collabs enable volunteers to crowdsource datasets for use in multiplle dashboards, maps, and web apps in support of important causes. Critically for data privacy, the data is never copied.

It's like Google Docs, but for data

Participating in a data collab is similar to co-writing a proposal in Google Docs where you and colleagues co-author the words while software supports grammar and governance.

Document Collaboration

Data Collaboration

Takes place in a single, uncopied Google Doc

Takes place in uncopied tables and queries hosted in our Collaboration Hub platform

People and software join forces to co-write new documents

People and software join forces to crowdsource datasets for one or more digital solutions

Software can suggest edits, fix typos

Software can extend data, highlight issues, calculate scores, make predictions

Software supports auto-backup and auto-versioning

​Software supports auto-backup and auto-versioning

Role-based controls (owner, editor, commentor) help govern the experience

Role-based controls (owner, editor, viewer, developer) help govern the experience

​Deliverables include business proposals, press releases, blog posts, and policies

Deliverables include open datasets, dashboards, maps, and web applications

What do collabs focus on?

At the Data Collaboration Community, we organize collabs around the following 'data-for-good' domains:

  • Collaborative Privacy

  • Collaborative Sustainability

  • Collaborative Health

  • Collaborative Cities

  • Collaborative Finance

  • Collaborative Education

  • Collaborative Society

  • Collaborative Agriculture

What do collabs deliver?

The deliverables of a data collab can include one or more digital solutions:

  • Reference datasets, data catalogs

  • Dashboards, data visualizations, precision maps

  • Real-time systems

  • Web applications

Are there examples?

Sure! Check out these web apps that were delivered as data collab projects:

Data Privacy Newsfinder

Privacy Law Navigator

Privacy Regulator Finder

What activities are involved?

Collabs include a variety of activities that can be delivered by people with a range of skills:


All new collabs start with a Google Doc where project leads identify the shared vision, purpose, and goals of the project.

Data modelling

Once clear goals are set, our Community Manager helps to create the tables / schemas required to power the new solution.

Data sourcing Volunteers may help to locate existing data resources (e.g. open databases) that can be connected (via CSV, API) to the data collaboration environment in order to support the project deliverables.

Data entry

Volunteers may be asked to add and/or edit data. These activities are often supported by the collab operations team with the creation for forms.


Our Community Manager assists in designing wireframes and delivering any code required (e.g. for a graphical user experience) to deliver the solution.

Is there support?

Yes - the Data Collaboration Alliance team helps with project operations, including creating data tables and schemas, organizing project meetings, connecting 3rd party data sources, and building dashboards and user experiences.

How do collabs get started?

Members use the Suggestion Box in the Collaboration Hub to submit ideas for new collab projects. This initiates the following sequence:

  1. Data Stewards review and prioritize

  2. Kick-off meeting to define deliverables

  3. Project created in Collaboration Hub

  4. Volunteers invited to contribute

  5. Solution delivered

All solutions (i.e. open datasets, dashboards, maps, and/or apps) are published for open access.

How is data protected?

Our Collaboration Hub observes the Zero-Copy Integration framework which eliminates databases and data integration (copies) from the process of developing new digital solutions - this translates into meaningful data control and ownership.

Can organizations get involved?

Definitely! We welcome enquiries from researchers and nonprofits who want to explore how a data collab can help them to deliver a "for good" solution. We also invite brands to enquire about sponsoring projects.

To learn more, please send and email to community@datacollaboration.org or check out our free Partner Success program.

Get started

Visit the Data Collaboration Community webpage to signup in 3 seconds. Once you're logged in, simply click the 'Collaborate' button to view our current collabs or use the Suggestion Box to submit an idea for a new project!


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