How One Woman is Changing the World Through Open Data


careyanneCarey Anne Nadeau is the founder and CEO of Open Data Nation, which offers courses, trainings, and analytics about open, public data. She is also the course instructor for Data Analytics in DC and a mentor for the Data Analytics Circuit online course. Keep up with Carey on her mission to make open data more accessible @opendatanation

First of all, tell us a little about yourself! What’s your academic background?

I have a BA in Political Science with a focus on Public Policy from George Washington University and a Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to my formal education, I have worked in the think tank world for nearly a decade—at the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute—as a Research Analyst. My research has focused primarily on low-income urban living—where do poor people live in US cities, how has this changed over time, and what does this mean for their lived experiences accessing and affording public transportation, childcare, and jobs.

I’m a Native-American woman, small business founder and owner of Open Data Nation, a social benefit corporation. I consult policymakers, professionals, and academics to train employees, reach new audiences, crowdsource decision making, and evaluate open, public data for insights.

How did you first become interested in working with data? How did your education parlay into your current career?

I started thinking analytically as a kid, building with legos—I’d identify a flaw in my construction, figure out how to strategically deconstruct it, and then rebuild better and stronger. This thought process ports well to my career as an Analyst and now entrepreneur—applying a scientific method to problem solving is rarely linear, it takes multiple tries to construct, deconstruct, and create something new that is stronger and better than when you began (even then you probably see ways you could have done it better).

What types of data are you dealing with on a daily basis? How do you use data to improve the community?

In the past few years, cities around the world began publishing unprecedented amounts of data, in the hopes that it would increase transparency. Now, these data publishers have goals to engage citizens, make better data-driven decisions, and improve the way they do business.

Open Data Nation works with those who publish this “open data,” data published online for public consumption and re-use. We help policymakers, professionals, and academics to reach their goals by providing training to employees, communications strategies to reach new audiences, and analytics.

What impact does open data have on policy-makers and communities?

Like a book on the shelf that no one reads, open data is a resource that is currently underutilized. Even worse, few people know that the library of data even exists. Developing data as a force for widespread democratic, social, and economic good will take time, but I believe it starts with a commitment to open data, to teaching how and why data is used, and to sharing the tools of the future with the public of today.

How have your experiences with data empowered you in your career and your community?

As the modern economy transitions to require greater digital literacy and be technology-focused, Open Data Nation works to create a space for inclusive innovation and data-driven democracy.

In addition to ongoing projects, we are fundraising for a Data Library, the first of its kind, to prepare all residents to participate, capitalize on the opportunity to create new tech-focused jobs, and draw in new investment in data-driven innovations built by and with underserved communities. This modern take on the library will expand awareness and access to open data resources, host events for residents to interact and exchange knowledge, provide instruction that trains and empowers residents for technology jobs, and brings in investment to incubate innovations.

What inspired you to start Open Data Nation?

At MIT, my classmates were visionaries and entrepreneurs. A friend, Christian, inspired me to create a solution, iterate it to figure out what worked, and directly impact the issue I cared about most—open data. I love hanging out at General Assembly’s DC location because I meet others like my friend Christian every day—people who want to create something important and have the motivation to make it happen.

You’re currently working with GA to build data into the academic curriculum. Tell us more about that.

We are working with General Assembly to incorporate open data into the academic curriculum of courses being offered including Data Analytics and User Experience Design. Students learn using data from their own communities—such as budget and spending, campaign finance, and 311 requests for service—and apply this data to create web apps, data dashboards, infographics, and statistical analyses that benefit themselves and their neighbors.

With General Assembly, we host regular events to bring those who publish data to campus to talk about the opportunities and applications that can be built from this resource. In the fall, we are planning a “Speed Data-ing event.” Adapted from the concept of Speed dating as a way to match single people, Speed Data-ing will expose those who seek data to those who publish it.

Lastly, we bring new potential students to General Assembly, for our ever-popular, “Open Data Office Hours.” At office hours, Open Data Nation provides one-on-one consultation for those seeking available open data who want to apply concepts of data science and analytics to their work.

Why do you think it’s important to teach emerging professionals how to properly organize and analyze data?

In the classes I teach at GA, I begin each session by asking students repeat after me, “I AM A DATA PERSON.” We must believe that we are data people because if we wait for someone else to qualify our talent, we miss opportunities to improve our own communities through policy and direct advocacy.  Open data is about us and for us, and we can not let this resource go to waste.

Data helps media companies tackle their biggest challenges and explore their biggest opportunities. Media is an area of interest for professionals of almost every background — and it’s one that career changers will feel passionate about pursuing. No matter your interests, you’ll find an opportunity to stay engaged and drive improvements to your employer’s bottom line.

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This post is part of our MyDataStory content series. See how data affects almost every facet of our culture—from innovation and technology to social impact—and share your own data stories.

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