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Accelerating Responsible Data Re-Use About and For Young People: Key Takeaways from the Festival De Datos

Posted on 15th of November 2023 by Hannah Chafetz, Andrew Zahuranec, Sampriti Saxena, Stefaan Verhulst

Accelerating Responsible Data Re-Use About and For Young People: Key Takeaways from the Festival De Datos
Accelerating Responsible Data Re-Use About and For Young People: Key Takeaways from the Festival De Datos

Young people have a right to be involved in decisions made about their data, but too often they are not included. They are deprived of agency in how others collect, share, and use their information, but this doesn’t need to be the case. Young people can be co-collaborators in data discussions to ensure the resulting policies and programs reflect their needs.

On November 8th, 2023, Stefaan G. Verhulst and Francisco M. Benavides Martinez presented on this topic. Speaking at the Youth Takeover session of the Festival de Datos in Punta del Este, Uruguay, the pair reflected on key findings on data re-use from the Youth Solutions Labs initiative, co-hosted by The GovLab, UNICEF, and The Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing, convening 123 young people from across the globe to discuss ways to improve youth health and well-being. 

Among other topics, the Labs included discussions on how youth feel about the re-use of data for or about them. This work aimed to operationalize the Responsible Data for Children principle of participation. 

In addition to presenting the findings on data re-use, Stefaan also led an engagement with in-person conference participants and those attending virtually–including young people. He asked the group: How should young people be involved in decisions about their data? 

Several conference attendees spoke to the group and we received over 40 responses to our live poll. The key takeaways from these discussions are outlined below. The full recording of the presentation can be found at the end of this post. 

Key Takeaways from the Input Received at the Festival de Datos:

  • The need for disaggregated data about and for youth: Participants expressed a need for not only data about youth as a cohort, but also the disaggregation of that data in terms of gender, geography, age, and other factors. Participants voiced a need for policies that call for the collection of such disaggregated data in a responsible and ethical way.

  • Engaging youth across the data lifecycle: Involving youth in data decisions should not be one singular event or occurrence. There is an opportunity to involve youth in planning and strategy development, data collection, analysis, and communications decisions. For example, they could be involved in collecting data themselves.

  • Data should take into account the lived experiences of young people: Data should be combined with the lived realities of young people to gain a more comprehensive understanding of social problems.

  • Additional training, education and programming is needed to ensure youth are informed and can participate in data decisions meaningfully: Participants expressed the need for young people to be informed about the data ecosystem and how organizations are using their data first in order to make informed contributions to decision making processes. This could include understanding how organizations are re-using data about or for youth, increasing data literacy among young people, or even establishing work placement opportunities with young people in UN agencies and NGOs.

  • Youth engagements should take into account how youth live their lives: There is a need to tailor youth engagement efforts to youth needs and ways of working. Participants suggested engagements to take place in schools, community centers, or online social networks to help meet young people where they are. 

  • Expand existing data initiatives to include young people: Participants expressed a need for not only new engagement opportunities for young people but also the expansion of existing data programs to incorporate the opinions of young people in decision making processes. This could include building youth representation, setting up youth data councils or consulting youth networks in AI, data stewardship, and data sovereignty groups. 

You can learn more about this initiative by watching the presentation (starting at 38:17) or by visiting the Youth Solutions Lab website. Please email [email protected] if you have any questions about this work or if you are interested in participating or collaborating on future initiatives. 

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