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How do Data Collabs work?

Updated: Jul 26

Data collabs are a way for people and software to collaborate on datasets which can be used to power unlimited apps, maps, and dashboards without eroding the access controls set by data owners.

The Data Collaboration Community, operated by the Data Collaboration Alliance nonprofit, is pioneering the use of Data Collabs (aka 'collabs') within its Collaboration Hub platform.

Collaboration on data

Participating in a collab is similar to co-writing a proposal in Google Docs where you and colleagues draft the words while spellcheck software suggests real-time edits.

Document Collaboration

Data Collaboration

Takes place in Google Docs

Takes place in data management platform (e.g. data fabric or dataware)

People get together to manage docs

People get together to manage datasets

Software can suggest edits, fix typos

Software can suggest compliance issues, calculate scores, make predictions

People control who can own, edit, or view the words

People control who can own, edit, or view the data (down to single cell of data)

​Outcomes include business proposals, press releases, and policies

Outcomes include open datasets, 360 customer views, and real-time applications

Where do collabs focus?

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

  • Collaborative Privacy

  • Collaborative Sustainability

  • Collaborative Health

  • Collaborative Finance

  • Collaborative Education

  • Collaborative Cities

  • 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

  • Applications

What activities are involved?

As an inclusive approach to innovation, collabs offer a variety of activities that can be delivered by people with a range of data skills:


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


Once clear goals are set, our Community Manager shares the tables (and schemas) required to power the new solution.


Data is sourced via 3rd parties (connected via API, fully controlled by owner) or it is 'crowdsourced' by project volunteers via data entry. Columns can also be managed by 3rd party software e.g. connected AI/ML tools.


The Community Manage assists in the design of the solution by sharing wireframe or mock-up dashboards for review and approval prior to engaging our internal builder team.

Is there support?

Yes - the Data Collaboration Alliance helps with project operations, including organizing events, creating data tables, connecting 3rd party data sources, and developing dashboards, maps, and applications.

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. Other members review, comment, and upvote (coming soon)

  2. Data Stewards prioritize and/or approve

  3. Scoping meetings define the goals (see above)

  4. Members join collab to contribute

All solutions (i.e. open dataset, dashboard, or app) are published for free access by the Data Collaboration Community.

How is data protected?

The dataware platform used to host our Collaboration Hub enables collab teams to observe the Zero-Copy Integration framework which means that not only can we reuse the same data to build multiple in as little as a few days but do so while preserving meaningful data ownership.

Can organizations get involved?

Definitely! We welcome enquiries from brands and nonprofits who would like to explore how data collabs can be leveraged to accelerate their "for good" initiatives.

We also feature the logo (with backlink) of our supporting partners on the collab homepage and all apps powered by the datasets they support.

Examples of partner contributions to collabs include:

  • Recruit volunteers to join collabs

  • Sponsor a 'data jam' session e.g. buy lunch for our collab volunteers

  • Connect data (our Collaboration Hub platform) to support a collab

To get started, 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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