Event guide for Index events

Getting together at a public event can be a fun way to contribute to the 2015 Global Open Data Index. It can also be a great way to engage and organize people locally around open data. Here are some guidelines and tips for hosting an event in support of the 2015 Index and getting the most out of it.

Hosting an event around the Global Open Data Index is an excellent opportunity to spread the word about open data in your community and country, not to mention a chance to make a contribution to this year's Index. Ideally, your event would focus broadly on open data themes, possibly even identifying the status of all 15 key datasets and completing the survey. Set a reasonable goal for yourself based on the audience you think you can attract. You may choose to not even make a submission at your event, but just discuss the state of open data in your country, that’s fine too. It may make sense to host an event focused around one or more of the datasets. For instance, if you can organize people around government spending issues, host a party focused on the budget, spending, and procurement tender datasets. If you can organize people around environmental issues, focus on the pollutant emissions and water quality datasets. Choose whichever path you wish, but it’s good to establish a focused agenda, a clear set of goals and outcomes for any event you plan.

We believe the datasets included in the survey represent a solid baseline of open data for any nation and any citizenry; you should be prepared to make this case to the participants at your events. You don’t have to have be an expert yourself, or even have topical experts on hand to discuss or contribute to the survey. Any group of interested andmotivated citizens can contribute to a successful event. Meet people where they are at, and help them understand why this work is important in your community and country. It will set a good tone for your event by helping participants realize they are part of a global effort and that the outcomes of their work will be a valuable national asset.

Ahmed Maawy, who hosted an event in Kenya around the 2014 Index, sums up the value of the Index with these key points that you can use to set the stage for your event:

  • It defines a benchmark to assess how healthy and helpful our opendatasets are.
  • It allows us to make comparisons between different countries.
  • Allows us to asses what countries are doing right and what countries are doing wrong and to learn from each other.
  • Provides a standard framework that allows us to identify what we need to do or even how to implement or make use of open data in our countries and identify what we are strong at or what we are weak at.

What to do at an Open Data Index event

It’s great to start your event with an open discussion so you can gauge the experience in the room and how much time you should spend educating and discussing introductory materials. You might not even get around to making a contribution, and that’s ok. Introducing the Index in anyway will put your group on the right path. If you’re hosting an event with mostly newcomers, it’s always a good idea to look to the Open Definition and the Open Data Handbookfor inspiration and basic information.

  • If your group is more experienced, everything you need to contribute to the survey can be found in this year’s Index contribution tutorial.
  • If you’re actively contributing at an event, we recommend splitting into teams and assigning one or more datasets to each of the group and having them use the Tutorial as a guide. There can only be one submission per dataset, so be sure to not have teams working on the same task.
  • Pair more experienced people with less experienced people so teams can better rely on themselves to answer questions and solve problems.

Where to hold an Index event

  • Free venues are best. You can ask for a room in a co-working space, or a company office, or an educational institution. Since an event like this is not-for-profit, this might make things easier.
  • Visit the space in advance if you can. Is it comfortable, welcoming, easy to reach with public transport? Make sure you know how many people can be in your space at the same time and with the required furniture.
  • Check the Wifi connection. Can the venue provide Wifi capacity for enough devices for everyone? Will connectivity cost extra?
  • Make a list of the equipment you might need (a projector? Keys for the venue? How many chairs and tables?) and know who can help you from the venue and who’s responsible for what. Exchange e-mail addresses and phone numbers with all the people who are organising the event with you.
  • The venue should be accessible to everyone and there should be step-free access to the building and the space where the event will take place. People with disabilities should be able to participate. Make sure your event signup forms mention accessibility and ask what accommodations might be needed.

Before the event

A little preparation will go a long way to ensuring your event is a success.

  • If you can, organize more experienced participants into a facilitators team. Think about what you need from facilitators or coaches in advance. Again, they don’t need to be experts, just willing to be a servant leader and commit to seeing tasks through in a small group.
  • Walk through an example from the contribution tutorial and think about any learning materials you need in your local context.
  • Share materials with facilitators in advance. If you can, meet in advance and go through the materials for the workshop. Get to know everybody get to know each other and you make sure that you all share the same level of commitment and attitude to the project.

Promote your event

Get the word out to attract a good audience.

  • You may want to promote through the OKI Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts – please contact Mor, our community coordinator at mor.rubinstein@okfn.org Promote the event through your social networks.
  • The hashtag is #GODI15 this year. Consider if you need another local hashtag for the event. Communicate both clearly in your promotions.
  • Invite everybody to share the information about it when you reach out to them.
  • Press contacts who may be interested in joining your event and also may help in promoting it. Reach out to them using social media and email.
  • Send an email to all participants when the event is published and a reminder e-mail 5 days before the actual event.

At the event

Make sure everyone feels welcome to participate.

  • Everyone should get a name sticker.
  • If the number of attendees is lower than twenty people (otherwise it would too long), it’s nice to go around the room getting people to introduce themselves and what they are interested in.
  • Set up a Post-It wall or public Google Doc/ Etherpad where anyone can input ideas, feedback and points onto during the event - this engages less vocal participants in an unintimidating fashion and allows them to share their views too!
  • Document and spread the word with pictures and live comments: to be posted on Twitter and Facebook and saved for post-event blog posts.
  • A comfortable learning experience needs space and support. Have space between the different tables of attendees to make sure that facilitators can freely move around the room and reach them easily when called for help.
  • Try not to give direct answers to the attendees’ questions but help and encourage them getting to the answer within the group and smaller teams.
  • Provide breaks and other opportunities for participants to rest and network.
  • Consider hosting a follow-up event to celebrate the launch of the Index in the beginning of November when you can share the results of the Index and see how your country measures up.
  • Free or discounted drinks would be a nice thing to have (coffee, tea and juice in the afternoon, soft drinks in the evening).
  • Beer and wine are ok for evening events, but remember that you don’t want your attendees to drink too much. If you provide alcohol at your event be sure to be sensitive to everybody’s culture and always offer a non-alcoholic choice.
  • It’s not necessary to provide food, though it always helps: you can suggest your attendees to eat something beforehand or ask them to bring food to share for an informal buffet. Offering a cookie is one of the most effective ways to break the ice.
  • We recommend asking your venue hosts if they would like to sponsor some food or drinks in exchange of being credited as co-organizer or sponsor. Alternatively try to find an external sponsor willing to chip in. This is often not a very big expense and a cheap way of getting some sponsor-credit.

After the event

Documenting your event is one of the most important tasks. Sharing the results and news of your event can help build up interest and excitement for the release of the 2015 Index.

  • Make sure to collect pictures. Usually people bring phones and cameras - so announce a way for them to share with you and others. We encourage you to use the Creative Commons CC-BY or CC0 license to maximum shareability and reuse.
  • Share your slide decks - make sure any slide decks are available to the public, if possible. This would go for yours as well as any invited speakers. A good tool for sharing slides is Slideshare.
  • Wrap up the event with a blog post where you summarize the event, share important findings or topics discussed and perhaps announce future events. Also make sure to make the blog post visually appealing by adding some photos. Have a great blog post?Let us know and we may be able to put it on the Blog
  • Share your documentation links on the Index Forum page so others can learn from and be inspired by your efforts.

Contributions to and Ideas for this guide came from Beatrice Martini via the Open Knowledge Network events handbook, and Ahmed Maawy, and his experiences with the Index last year in Kenya.