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Announcing the Next Phase of RD4C

Expanding our work and commitment to advance responsible handling of data for and about children

Posted on 28th of June 2021 by Andrew Young

Data has the potential to support service delivery that can improve the lives of children. Misuse of data — as well as missed use of potentially valuable information — can also pose serious threats to children’s safety, well-being, and development. Actors working to advance children’s rights around the world need guidance, tools, and support to navigate the constantly evolving data ecosystem, capitalize on opportunities to use data responsibly to benefit children, and avoid harms resulting from irresponsible or ineffective data handling. 

The GovLab and UNICEF have sought to support organizations dealing with these issues through its Responsible Data for Children Initiative (RD4C). RD4C supports best practice in data responsibility; identifies challenges and develops practical tools to assist practitioners in evaluating and addressing them; and encourages a broader discussion on actionable principles, insights, and approaches for responsible data management. 

Today, we are delighted to announce the launch of the second phase of this project. 

The new effort builds on a first phase of work in which The GovLab conducted three intensive field observations with UNICEF country offices in diverse environments and created an in-depth report on the current state of responsible handling of data for and about children. Products from this phase also suggested specific pathways for improving data practices; offered customized recommendations for UNICEF country offices and implementing partners; provided case studies on notable data systems; and included lightweight tools that could be used across the children’s data ecosystem. 

This work further informed the development of a set of principles that are now helping to guide responsible data handling at UNICEF and beyond. These RD4C Principles are: 

  • Participatory: Engaging and informing individuals and groups affected by the use of data for and about children;
  • Professionally Accountable: Operationalizing responsible data practices and principles by establishing institutional processes, roles, and responsibilities;
  • People-Centric: Ensuring the needs and expectations of children, their caregivers, and their communities are prioritized by actors handling data for and about them;
  • Prevention of Harms Across the Data Lifecycle: Establishing end-to-end data responsibility by assessing risks during the collecting, storing, preparing, sharing, analyzing, and using stages of the data life cycle;
  • Proportional: Aligning the breadth of data collection and duration of data retention with the intended purpose;
  • Protective of Children’s Rights: Recognizing the distinct rights and requirements for helping children develop to their full potential; and
  • Purpose-Driven: Identifying and specifying why the data is needed and how the intended or potential benefits relate to improving children’s lives.

The second phase of RD4C will expand on these initial outputs. Some of the work that The GovLab and UNICEF are undertaking over the next year includes:

  • Continuing to promote and enable the use of the RD4C Principles, especially in development and humanitarian contexts, in harmony with other important guidelines and best practices, such as the IASC Operational Guidance on Data Responsibility in Humanitarian Action and UNICEF’s Children’s Data Governance Manifesto;
  • Developing and testing a new methodology and platform for auditing data systems to better understand their alignment with the RD4C Principles and identify areas for improvement;
  • Developing detailed case studies on diverse, instructive uses of data from across the UNICEF ecosystem to identify key lessons and provide the field with good practices that can be replicated in other contexts;
  • Creating new training programs and curricula in responsible data handling to support UNICEF field staff and other actors working to advance children’s rights; and 
  • Producing and disseminating regular insights, updates, news, and developments on responsible data to advance children’s rights.

The new RD4C.org website will act as the hub for all of this work. Please check back regularly to stay up-to-speed on new happenings from the initiative, and sign up here to join the RD4C community to be alerted to new developments and opportunities for collaboration. 

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