HomePilots & Prototypes
Background and Concept
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In response to climate and environmental injustice, communities around the globe have for decades engaged in their own scientific monitoring and have campaigned to have this information included in regulatory, legal, and legislative processes. However, “invited spaces” of participatory environmental governance (e.g., environmental impact assessments, strategic environmental assessments, and public inquiry mechanisms) vary wildly in their accessibility and efficacy, and often do not have entry points to incorporate community data. Likewise, data collected by regulatory agencies, academic researchers, or mandated industry requirements are decontextualized and, as a whole, do not adequately reflect local values and cultural knowledge that may be critically important to a policy or a regulatory change. This means that each community that collects data to share their experiences, to counter industry narratives, to demonstrate where environmental management is succeeding or failing, is required to navigate complex local, regional, and federal laws and policies within dense legal landscapes.

The result is that community-driven data projects and community efforts to provide context are tragically underused. The existing models (open government data platforms, public comment and complaint systems, and proprietary sensor networks, to name a few) that attempt to act as a bridge cannot speak to the complexities regarding openness of public data and the sensitivity of personal data. Community data hubs require new governance approaches because of the complexities of both public and private data management, and the immediate need for community-government and community-community interfaces that can represent community needs both accurately and deliberately. 

OEDP’s Path to the CDH Model 

‍OEDP believes in approaching these complexities with robust data governance that facilitates a multi-directional information flow between communities and government and supports better decision making, trust, and regulation. 

In 2020, we began this exploration through looking at the role of data guilds, trusts, and collaboratives in the environmental governance space. We then built out the idea of generative environmental governance and conceptualized an Environmental Trend Platform

In 2021, we began to move these ideas into the co-design of a Community Data Hub, which would increase data usability for environmental governance in three ways: (i) by providing a place for communities to make collective decisions about their own data while also (ii) modeling data governance approaches for sharing between communities, and (iii) between communities and government.

In 2023, we began prototyping a CDH model alongside our Advisory Board, and through two Environmental Data Labs. Our goal is to demonstrate how socially networked open data streams (i.e., integrating and sharing knowledge across different community hubs or inputs) can preserve local values while enabling timely, relevant, and trustworthy decision-making by community members and their representatives in government.

CDH will grapple with the ways that community information is shared to better enable community representation and authority in environmental governance. Each CDH design will be an expression of a community need and our community partners will determine the types of data or information that will be housed (e.g., public and open sources of environmental data, private and civic sector sources of data). Questions of privacy and policy, as well as usability and searchability will be addressed in the design process. 

Additionally, the prototype design could provide a resource library, co-maintained by OEDP and communities for interaction with government on how to pilot new solutions. This could include: data sharing agreement templates and examples, existing legislation that communities could adapt or advocate for adoption, and policy templates.

A flow chart demonstrating a community data hub