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LEARN > Reports > 2020 Annual Report: Data Foundation

2020 Annual Report: Data Foundation

13 Mar 2021
Written by ToucanTech Support

Despite the uncertainties and rapid changes in our society that affected all aspects of how we live and work – 2020 was an incredibly productive and highly engaging year for the Data Foundation. The Data Foundation strives to encourage our society and government to organize, analyze, and use information to support informed decision-making. With no shortage of opportunities in 2020, our work proved successful at strengthening the data community, advancing practical policy solutions, identifying new areas for future policy engagement, and improving the sustainability of the Data Foundation. 

Across all our activities, we worked to promote more open data, maturity of new chief data officers, capabilities for securely sharing government data, and efforts to improve the standards and quality for information. 

Advancing Practical Data Policy Solutions

In 2020, the Data Foundation supported numerous efforts to improve data quality, accessibility, and usability through partnerships and engagement with Congress and the Executive Branch. In alignment with our policy agenda, substantial progress was made on all six of our policy priorities: open data, evidence-based decision making, financial services, spending data, and innovation and AI. A substantial part of our efforts in 2020 involved working directly with leaders in the Executive Branch to support implementation of the Federal Data Strategy, a 10-year plan for improving all of the government's data governance and analytical capabilities. The Data Foundation supported this effort by hosting a public forum recognizing the importance of external expert feedback to the actions incorporated in the strategy, as well as by providing extensive technical support for the action items. 

  • 25+ briefings for congressional staff to provide education about emerging data issues and themes

  • 5 bills with technical assistance focused on establishing a stronger ecosystem for data use with strong privacy protections

  • 2 new data laws endorsed by the Data Coalition, including the Taxpayer’s Right to Know Act and AII in Government Act

  • 15 letters and statements to the Executive Branch calling for improved systems for data management and use

  • 2 editorials from leadership arguing for improved systems and infrastructure to make data usable for our society

  • Hosted the Federal Data Strategy Priorities Forum, which provided 35 experts from the data community to offer feedback on progress about the current data strategy implementation and priorities for the next year.

  • 30+ articles and fact sheets sharing knowledge and insights with a broad community about emerging data policy issues

Strengthening the Data and Evidence Community

The Data Foundation’s efforts to strengthen the data community include a broad mix of activities that include education, capacity building, and strategic partnerships. In 2020, we launched new virtual networking opportunities and task forces for experts to engage and participate in knowledge sharing and problem solving. Our partnerships to build data literacy and fluency along with involvement in academic Executive Education programs demonstrates the expertise and skill of the members in our network. 

  • 20 coffee breaks and roundtables for networking and knowledge sharing about specific issues and shared interests for Data Coalition members

  • Hosted GovDATAx, the leading national event for the data community to engage in dialogue and planning for future U.S. data policies including 20 data experts from government, industry, non-profits, and academia as speakers

  • Hosted the 2020 RegTech Data Week, in partnership with Donnelley Financial Solutions, to discuss the benefits and uses of common entity identifiers, development of new pilot projects to advance the use of structured data in regulatory reporting, and other key considerations for adopting RegTech solutions in 2020 and beyond. Convened over 350 attendees from federal and state government, industry, non-profits, and academia. 

  • 40+ educational presentations to share insights about the emerging national data infrastructure and ecosystem

  • 25 events facilitated  with over 6,000 attendees to engage the broader community in meaningful improvements

Identifying New Areas for Engagement

The global coronavirus pandemic presented new opportunities to the Data Foundation in 2020, also leading to a new strand of work to support data innovation. In April 2020 we launched the COVID Impact Survey in partnership with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, NORC at the University of Chicago, and the Associated Press. Together we produced insights about the impacts of the pandemic on the American people faster than the government, and shared our knowledge, methods, and data openly with government agencies, elected officials, researchers, and the American people. The project demonstrated that innovative approaches for rapidly disseminating new knowledge about global crises is very much possible and at a low cost. 

In addition, our research on the CDO community and strategies for understanding implementation of the OPEN Government Data Act and even how agencies can structure CDO units is substantially contributing to the overall maturity of the federal chief data officers. CDOs know that the Data Foundation is a trusted resource, advocating for funding, staffing, leadership support, and other capabilities for CDOs to succeed in their roles. 

The Data Foundation also published a milestone research product in 2020 aimed at identifying a coherent strategy for modernizing data infrastructure in the United States. The research product not only presented a pathway for high-salience research at the Data Foundation in the future, it generated practical, actionable recommendations that are being acted upon by policymakers in the Executive Branch and Congress. 

  • 3.3 billion earned media associated with the COVID Impact Survey (valued at $30 million)

  • More than 300,000 page views associated with 

  • 55+ citations to the project and use of the data from the survey in peer-reviewed publications, including a major report from the Centers for Disease Control

Building New Evidence to Address Data Capacity Gaps


The Data Foundation's research agenda emphasizes challenges for the data community that can be practically and reasonably addressed with practical solutions. By building evidence to define problems and articulate practical solutions, the Data Foundation supports efforts to educate the data community while also devising reasonable strategies for advancing capacity and infrastructure. Examples of research products from 2020 include the following:

Improving our Sustainability

Challenged at the outset of 2020 by the unique global economic shock, the Data Foundation prioritized aligning resources to achieve top priorities while maximizing for growth in realistic areas. In addition to funding for major new projects and initiatives, in 2020 the Data Foundation secured general operating support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build organizational capacity and grew the membership of the Data Coalition, which merged into the Data Foundation at the end of 2020. With a diversified funding model, the Data Foundation is prepared for future growth and increasingly for economic shifts in the future.

  • 2020 Annual Revenue by Type (combined Data Foundation and Data Coalition)

    • DF - $1,998,159

    • DC - $1,534,215

  • 56 unique funding organizations

The Data Foundation is a non-profit think tank based in Washington, D.C. that seeks to improve government and society by using data to inform public policymaking. Our research and educational activities proactively and rapidly address relevant, emerging data-related needs in the country with the goal of devising realistic solutions, accelerating policy coordination, and advancing innovation. The Data Foundation values diversity and transparency in pursuit of an equitable, data-informed society. 



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